PE: Snow crab fishery off to early, strong start

Eric McCarthy
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The Journal Pioneer

On Friday, Carter Hutt of the P.E.I. Snow Crab Association estimated that most boats have already landed between one-half and two-thirds of their individual allocations.

Jesse Coughlin attaches the pull ropes to another pan of snow crab so that labourers working topside can lift the catch out of the hold of a boat on Friday.

[ALBERTON, PE] — It’s less than a week old, but already, the 2012 season for the P.E.I. snow crab fleet is winding down.

Carter Hutt, president of the 28-member P.E.I. Snow Crab Association, estimated Friday that most boats have already landed between one-half and two-thirds of their individual allocations.

Each member of the Island’s traditional fleet is allowed 49,000 pounds, which is more than double last year’s allocation.

A quota increase was expected and Hutt said fishers were saying for the last two years that the biomass would support an increase. He said science is projecting that the biomass will continue to increase until 2014 or 2015 and then start dropping off in its natural cycle.

“The quality’s real good,” Hutt confirmed. “I had an observer with me (Thursday), and he’s saying the crab are in really good condition.”

There’s still no official word on price, but rumours are placing it in the $2.50 per pound range. Fishers settled for $3.50 a pound last year when quota was low.

Hutt said three members of his group chose not to participate in the fishery this year, leaving other members of the fleet to fish their quota.

Last Saturday’s opening was one of the earliest starts in years for the fleet, so participants who also have spring lobster licences will likely be done fishing crab before lobster starts on May 1.

Fishers are averaging about 150 pounds per trap, Hutt reported. Each member of his association fishes 75 traps.

Most Island boats are making day trips to fish their gear after 48-hour sets.

Back at the wharves, buyers are relying heavily on school students to help unload from late afternoon until early morning.

While catch rates in the western end of the Island are reported to be good, Hutt said catches are even better in the eastern part of the province.

Organizations: P.E.I. Snow Crab Association

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