NORTHPORT – Despite widespread interest in an early opening date, the president of the P.E.I. Snow Crab Association says weather and ice could dictate when snow crab fishermen in the Gulf of St. Lawrence get on the water.
Carter Hutt said there was a desire to have the fishery open by April 20, but he noted there is still a considerable amount of ice in the gulf and the weather hasn’t been co-operating in terms of moving it out.
He added saying ice is not so much of an issue around P.E.I. as it is in Northern New Brunswick where a Coast Guard hovercraft was being dispatched to help break up the ice. “They’re hoping to get a couple of big boats in up there and get the harbours broke out,” he said, pointing to the urgency. Once those harbours are free of ice, Hutt said, it could still take close to two weeks to get all the boats in the water.
Part of the push for an early start has to do with last year’s unprecedented high mortality rate of North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf. An earlier start could mean the year will be out of the water before the whales return.
“Everybody wants it, for sure. If we could get on the water a couple weeks early, it could make a big difference,” Hutt suggested. Regulatory changes have also been imposed to help protect the whales.
He added years when boats were able to get on the water early, the fishery usually starts off with good catches.
Quota in Area 12 of the Gulf, where Prince Edward Island boats fish, practically doubled last year while most other areas saw their quota decline. This year the overall quota has been reduced and Area 12’s allocation is close to where it was two years ago.
Hutt is optimistic of good prices again this year.
“What I’m hearing… there’s good demand for crab. There’s supposed to be lots of interest from Japan buyers and other buyers as well. There seems to be lots of inquiries,” he said.
While many Island ports are still iced in, Hutt said the situation is not as serious as in northern New Brunswick and he suggested that once an opening date is set members of the P.E.I. snow crab fleet will be ready to go.