Newfoundland’s crabby dispute

A pricing dispute in Canada’s crustacean heartland has crabby fishers calling out seafood processors for their shellfishness. 

Driving the news: Newfoundland snow crab fishers represented by the Fish, Food & Allied Workers union (FFAW) have been on dry land for over a month—refusing to fish after the provincial price-setting board set the price of harvested snow crab at $2.20-a-pound. 

  • In Newfoundland, snow crab is assigned a set price between fishers and processors, just like how other boards set the farm-gate prices for eggs and milk.

  • The per-pound price of snow crab opened last spring at $7.60, roughly 245% higher than it is today. On the whole, the current price is 60% lower than last year’s average. 

The FFAW believe fishers won’t break even if they hit the waters at these prices (especially as operating costs rise) and has asked the board to set the per-pound price at $3.10. 

Yes, but: Snow crab demand surged early in the pandemic as people stuck inside turned to fancy seafood to brighten their mood, but demand has since collapsed as inflationary pressures drive more frugal eating habits and drive up costs for seafood processors.

  • In the US, ~10 million pounds of Canadian crab caught last year remains unsold, while another big buyer, Japan, is increasingly sourcing cheaper crab from Russia.

Why it matters: This little crustacean has a big economic impact. The fishery industry employs over 16,000 people in Newfoundland, and snow crab is its most valuable product, accounting for 61% of the total annual fishery value and 2.3% of the province’s GDP all by itself.—QH