Nfld. & Labrador

Cut to snow crab quota could crush Labrador fishery, says Nunatsiavut

Most of Newfoundland and Labrador is seeing a big increase in the snow crab quota. But Zone 2J, off Labrador's coast, is getting its quota cut by 28 per cent.

Zone 2J quota dropping 28% from 2021

The quota for snow crab in Zone 2J, off the coast of Labrador, has had its quota cut 28 per cent from last year. (Submitted by FFAW)

The Nunatsiavut government says this year's cut to Labrador's snow crab quota is devastating for the fishery.

In a media release Friday, Nunatsiavut government officials said most of the crab harvested in the region comes from Zone 2J, which has had its quota cut by 28 per cent.

"This is extremely difficult to absorb for our harvesters and processors and, eventually, and will be devastating to our
communities," Nunatsiavut Lands and Natural Resources Minister Greg Flowers said in the release.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced Thursday that the overall provincial quota would increase 32 per cent from last year, to more than 50,000 tonnes. Most individual fishing zones had their quotas lifted, but Zone 2J, located off the coast of Labrador, will see a 28 per cent decrease to a total of 851 tonnes.

A recent DFO stock assessment showed crab was up in all fishing areas with the exception of Labrador.

Todd Russell, president of the NunatuKavut community council, called the cuts deep and devastating. 

"The fishery is so much a part of NunatuKavut Inuit in our communities. It's part of our culture, and this is devastating," Russell said, adding the price of snow crab — set at $7.60 per pound to begin the season — is keeping the fishery alive in the region.

Nunatukavut represents 6,000 Inuit in southern and central Labrador, some of whom make a living through the fishery. However, the group's Indigenous status has been disputed by other groups — including the Innu Nation, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Nunatsiavut government — who don't consider the NCC an Indigenous collective.

Russell said fishers and processors need a certain quantity of crab available to make the fishery viable.

"There comes a time when the quotas get so low that it has a tremendous impact on the onshore processing of product and fish," he said. "To make it economical, you have to of course have price, but you also have to have a certain quantity to make it worthwhile."

Todd Russell, president of NunatuKavut community council, says the cut to the snow crab quota could be devastating for Labrador's fishery. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Russell said it is troubling to see quotas in Labrador fall as others rise, and he worries about what other decisions might be in store for the fishery.

"Labrador's people, us as Indigenous peoples on these lands, on the waters, have continued to be marginalized," he said.

"So when you see decisions made that don't take into account these circumstances … that really scares us."

Both Nunatsiavut and NunatuKavut have asked federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray to request access to additional crab and shrimp quotas adjacent to Labrador.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Rafsan Faruque Jugol