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The fishing industry resists the pandemic

Compared to 2019, Quebec fishermen have experienced a 29% drop in the value of their catches this year, for all species fished in the Gulf.

This season, however, followed record years and remains, in terms of revenue, among the top five years in the industry.

Total landings in Quebec amounted to $ 266 million, all species combined, compared to $ 378 million in 2019. Gaspé fishermen received 134 million, those from the Islands nearly 88 million and those from the North Shore 44 millions.

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The catches were 44,350 tonnes, which is barely lower than in 2019. More than half of this quota, 24,140 tonnes, was fished in the Gaspé, more than in 2019.

Freshly caught shrimp landed at Rivière-au-Renard (archives)

Photo: Radio-Canada / Myriam Fimbry

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) says the 2020 preliminary data could be subject to an upward revision, particularly with regard to prices.

The results of the season nevertheless allow us to make some astonishing observations.

Hard days for the king of the gulf

Generally, snow crab is the resource in the Gulf with the highest landed value. The year 2020 has come to upset this order.

Just fewer snow crabs were caught this year than last year, but their landed value fell to 102.7 million, less than the landed value of lobster, which reached 113.8 million of dollars.

The spread of the virus all over the planet has hurt an industry that relies heavily on export markets.

Crab pots at the Sept-Îles wharf.

The Sept-Îles fishermen’s wharf in April 2020 (archives).

Photo: Radio-Canada / Nicolas Lachapelle

About 80% of Quebec’s resource is exported, mainly to the American market. This year, the value of snow crab landings was down 41% from last year. The MPO points out that annual revenues from snow crab are also down 19%, when compared to the average for the past eight years.

These decreases are not without impact on the economy of coastal regions.

In its report on the season, Fisheries and Oceans also notes that the Côte-Nord is the maritime sector that has experienced the largest decline compared to 2019, due to the proportion occupied by snow crab, a species most severely affected. than the others by the price reduction in 2020.

Snow crab represents 69% of the value of landings in this region.

The appeal of local products

The price reductions were less marked for lobster which, with traceability, has carved out a place for itself on the domestic market.

In fact, 90% of Gaspé lobster was sold on the domestic market.

The product benefited from the craze for the Blue Basket launched by the Quebec government to stimulate local purchasing.

Consumers linked that with the identification of the lobster and they demanded identified lobster, which we had in the Gaspé and that there was not in the Magdalen Islands. , underlines O’Neil Cloutier, director of the Regroupement of professional fishermen of the south of the Gaspé.

The prices were nevertheless down.

Ropes on a mooring line

In the spring, uncertainty reigned over the fishing season at the Sainte-Thérèse-de-Gaspé wharf, where most of the lobster landed in the Gaspé (archives).

Photo: Radio-Canada / Martin Toulgoat

O’Neil Cloutier indicates that Gaspé fishermen received an average of $ 5.15 per pound, which is $ 1.60 less than in 2019.

He also notes that Gaspé fishermen have fared relatively well given the context of the pandemic. There are areas in Quebec and New Brunswick that hit such a low price of $ 3.90 for two weeks , notes the spokesperson for the Gaspé lobster boats. In the Gaspé, the lowest price paid to fishermen was $ 4.50 per pound.

Across the Gulf, lobster vessels received an average of $ 5.01 per pound, about 20% less than in 2019, which was a record year in both catches and prices.

Hope for next year

Along with lobster and crab, shrimp represent 91% of the income from landings by Gaspé fishermen.

After several years of uncertainty as to the resource whose quotas were decreasing, 2020 will have been a good year in terms of catches, underlines Patrice Element, director of the Office of the shrimp fishermen of the Grand Gaspé.

Two fishing boats moored at the Rivière-au-Renard wharf.

Two fishing boats moored at the Rivière-au-Renard wharf (archives).

Photo: Radio-Canada / Martin Toulgoat

Shrimp were abundant and the range was also larger than in recent years, notes Element. Indeed, the quantity of shrimp landed (10,870 t) was up 28.8% compared to 2019.

However, prices fell 36%, according to Fisheries and Oceans, from $ 1.68 per pound to $ 1.08.

As more shrimp were caught, total income decreased by 17%.

Nobody knew how the markets would behave in a context of a pandemic, underlines Mr. Element, who believes that the catastrophic scenario apprehended by the actors of the industry could be avoided.

Indeed, the price received on landing in 2020 is even higher than that of 2017.

The greater presence of the resource is also good news for the next season.

As for the 2021 markets, it is a bit early to talk about it since shrimp, like snow crab, is also a product that depends a lot on exports.

The magnitude of the second wave, particularly in the Scandinavian countries and the UK, should give shrimp fishermen good clues. Lobster fishermen and especially snow crab fishermen will no doubt have a keen eye on the United States and Asia.

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