Record crab and lobster prices push landings value in Newfoundland and Labrador beyond $ 1 billion
Tony Doyle isn’t the one to get excited about, but the veteran Bay de Verde fisherman couldn’t help but smile when asked about the 2021 fishing season, which will likely stay in the story like the best of all time.
“It was remarkable,” Doyle says, referring to the $ 7.60 a pound – more than double the price last year – that Doyle and his son Thomas received for the roughly 16,000 pounds of snow crab they received. ‘they disembarked with their vessel of less than 40 feet, the Tango Delta. , This year.
“As far as the prices go, it’s better than I’ve ever seen it,” adds Doyle, adding that they also received record prices for their lobster landings.
It’s not hard to hear optimistic language like this when talking to Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen this year, because their bank accounts have likely been swollen by 40 to 50 incomes. % higher than in previous years.
“This year has been phenomenal. It’s the best year we’ve ever had, ”said Glen Winslow, owner of the St. John’s-based Roberts’s Sisters II, a 65-foot vessel.
Big income, big expense
It’s a scenario that has injected much-needed enthusiasm and financial flexibility into hundreds of coastal communities, and has resulted in a boon to the business sector as this new wealth finds its way into everything from shipyards and shipyards. metal fabrication shops to car dealerships, home improvement stores and restaurants.
“We are not able to do it without the big increase this year,” Doyle said of ongoing engine work on the Tango Delta, which is high and dry in a shipyard in Harbor Grace.
The same goes for the Roberts’s Sisters II, which is at the Triton Shipyard, where a new and expensive stabilization system is being installed on the 21-year-old ship.
“This is the biggest amount of money we have spent on the ship since we got it,” said Winslow. “This year we will be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the boat, which we have never been able to do before.”
Doyle says the mood has changed in his area of the Avalon Peninsula.
“I don’t hear as much growling now as we did in previous years because people …
Investments are paying off, union says
According to preliminary data compiled by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which monitors fishing landings in the province, the amount of money paid to fishing companies in the inshore and offshore fleets this year is slightly higher. $ 1 billion, which is a new record.
The previous baseline of about $ 850 million in landed value was recorded six years ago, but landings are generally in the order of $ 800 million.
“They’ve made big investments, and now they’re paying off,” said Fisheries Union President Keith Sullivan, who represents some 12,000 inshore fishermen in the province.
“It’s the megaproject that goes to every nook and cranny of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I think people are recognizing it this year.”
While the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador is anchored in the cod harvest, shellfish are now king: namely crab and lobster. When the markets are warm, the fishing flourishes, and right now the steam is still rising from a crop that has brought a smile to thousands of faces this year.
“I see some of my (crews) now buying new vehicles, doing stuff in their house,” says Winslow. “They’re spending the money because they have a few more dollars to spend this year. It’s unreal and it’s nice to see them being able to afford to do things that they couldn’t do in the pass.”
The pandemic paved the way for high prices
It is all happening as the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and other sectors of the province, such as tourism, struggle to recover from a period of unprecedented upheaval.
And by a twist of fate, it was the pandemic that paved the way for a windfall in fishing.
Last year, with public health measures at their peak, the restaurant industry collapsed, meaning the seafood buffets that were so famous at hotels and places like Denny’s and Red Lobster have practically disappeared.
In order to save the industry in 2020, companies began to market their products in the retail sector, and homebound consumers responded, drawn to the fact that precooked crab can simply be thawed and served. .
This year the retail market remained strong, but the restaurant industry also made a comeback, meaning the market was hungrier than ever for Newfoundland and Labrador shellfish like the crab and lobster.
As a result, landed values have climbed by around half a billion this year from 2020 levels, also helped by larger quotas and impressive catch rates.
But it’s the snow crab that is driving growth, with landed values up over $ 300 million from the pre-pandemic era, and FFAW chairman Keith Sullivan believes this year is not just an accident.
“I think we are ready for a high value fishery in the future,” he says.
Landed value versus production value
One of the other consequences is the rise in value of fishing companies. With no new licenses issued, the only way to become a business owner is to buy one, and Tony Doyle says a fishing business like his can now bring in nearly half a million dollars. dollars.
“It’s much better than being pessimistic,” says Doyle.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen what the surge in prices for fishermen will mean for seafood processors, as this data is controlled by the provincial government and these numbers are still being calculated.
Typically, the so-called production value, which is the combination of landed value and market value, is between $ 1.3 billion and $ 1.4 billion.
But Derek Butler, executive producer of the Association of Seafood Producers, wouldn’t be surprised if the production value exceeds $ 2 billion this year.
“This is great news, not just good news,” says Butler.
ASP, as it is called, is an industry trade association representing two dozen seafood processing companies in the province.
Over the past four to five years, Butler says member companies have invested about $ 150 million in their operations, which are located in rural parts of the province.
He says these types of investments will need to continue in order to improve automation in the face of a declining workforce, and successful years like 2021 will allow that to happen.
Meanwhile, Butler describes 2021 as “a year of great resilience” in which the industry overcame the challenges of pandemic safety and rising shipping costs to record its largest contribution. highest ever recorded in the provincial economy.
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