GREAT NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL – Noddy Bay fisherman Carl Hedderson says the area 4R crab fishery will need to be different from 2017 if he’s to gear up again this year.
But with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) stock assessment indicating another decrease in exploitable biomass and recruitment numbers in the area – which includes the entire western side of the Northern Peninsula – it may not be likely.
DFO’s report shows snow crab exploitable biomass and recruitment in area 4R3Pn was down “to a time-series low in 2017.” The time series dates to 2004.
Hedderson’s experience on the water last year supports those findings.
“The crab is not there, not in the zone we fish, in area 12,” he told the Northern Pen.
He doesn’t believe the quota will make any difference.
“You can cut it by 50 per cent, it’s not going to make any difference if you’re not catching 50 per cent of it now,” he explained. “So if we’re allowed to catch 25,396 pounds, if we’re only allowed to catch 12,000 next year, that don’t mean nothing if the best boat last year only caught about 6,000.”
And with those catch rates, it won’t be worth gearing up again.
“I can’t leave home and go down there and live aboard my boat, and catch 5,000 or 6,000 pound of crab from April to the last of June,” he said. “It’s no good.”
He’ll have to focus on other species, including the cod, herring, turbot, mackerel and capelin – the latter of which he hopes will be his main fishery but will need to rebound after a poor 2017.
While some area 12 harvesters believe they should have access to the grounds in area 13, Hedderson disagrees.
He says while stocks are higher in 13 than in 12, they are not high enough to support an influx of area 12 harvesters.
“There’s a bit more crab there but if you had to bring all the boats in from area 12, into that little area, it’d be all fished out,” he said.
He adds that Quebec harvesters have always fished in the area and feels they have earned a right to the grounds.
Hedderson says the one thing he would like to see changed in the area is for the cost of the license to be reduced.
“Just hold your license, just get it for a set amount, rather than charge all that money for the IQ (individual quota) fees,” he said.
Meanwhile, in area 3K, which includes the eastern side of the Northern Peninsula, exploitable biomass and recruitment numbers are looking a little bit better.
In 2017, the numbers rebounded somewhat from an historic low in 2015-16.
Goose Cove harvester Maxwell Sexton is expecting the status quo to maintain in 3K.
“I don’t know about getting an increase but I don’t think there’ll be any decrease in the quota,” he said.
Since he expects the price of snow crab to increase, he adds, “that’ll be pretty good.”