As we know, fish prices are highly volatile, but you rarely see discounts at fishmongers’ counters when it comes to prized shellfish like crabs. Yet this year, it is: consumers can expect to pay virtually half the 2022 retail price for fresh produce.

At the Odessa fish shop on rue Molson in Montreal, all the snow crabs have gone missing over the Easter weekend. “We’re used to seeing a small price increase each year,” says fishmonger manager Marie-Christine Chayer. Drops are much rarer.

“We were at the start of food inflation, after COVID, recalls Marie-Christine Chayer. People were not happy and bought few of them. »

Result: leftover crab from last year, frozen. This explains why the cool little beast now retails for much less. At Odessa, you have to pay around $12.99 per pound for live crab and $22.50 for prepared sections. That’s a reduction of at least 40% compared to the list price last year, explains the store manager.

Fans will be happy to get their hands on crab at this low price, but it’s not a party at all on the angler’s side. On part of the North Shore, the season is compromised. Fishermen believe that it is simply not worth the cost of launching the boats. Processing plants offer them between $2.25 and $2.50 a pound for their crabs. Fishermen are practically asking for a dollar more. The situation is tense. There are 39 owners in this area, fishing area 16.

On the Gaspé side, in area 17 of the St. Lawrence estuary, snow crab fishing has been underway since the end of March. The fishermen have accepted the price from the processors, some hoping that it will be increased during the season. Observers doubt it: with their stock from previous years to sell, the factories are unlikely to increase their supply of new crustaceans.

The catches are good, explains Claudio Bernatchez, director general of the Gaspésie Captains and Owners Association. The good thing about quality and abundance, he says, is that it will convince local consumers who had stopped buying it because the prices were too high to come back to a local seafood product.

Tuesday morning at 5:00 a.m. was the start of the season for anglers in the most important region, Zone 12, which is located along the northern Gaspé coast. Claudio Bernatchez explains that fishermen who have larger quotas can make their activities profitable, which is more difficult when the quantities to be caught are small.

Crab fishing operates by quota in Quebec. That is to say that the fishermen have fishing rights established according to scientific surveys of the previous season, in particular. The season is over when the maximum amount of shellfish is harvested. Quotas are not transferable, from one area to another, but an owner can lease his fishing right to a colleague in the same area.

Almost a third of Quebec crab is certified sustainable, including all that caught in areas 16 and 17.