After reporting years of shrinking snow crab stocks, scientists at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) are painting a not so bleak picture for the upcoming 2018 fishery off Newfoundland.
DFO snow crab lead Dr. Darrell Mullowney said today the fishable biomass off Newfoundland (NAFO areas 2HJ3KLNOP4R) is still at a low level, but has shown some small signs of improvement and should be on par with 2016 stock numbers, bucking a trend that demonstrated declines each year.
Snow crab landings most recently peaked at 53,500 tonnes in 2009 and have since gradually declined to 34,000 tonnes in 2017, their lowest level in two decades.
But a recent cooling trend might be helping crab stocks level off.
Mullowney said snow crab are most common in waters below 2°C. and the return to cooler conditions in all fishing divisions in recent years is proving positive for the stock.
2017 stock status:
2HJ: Both the exploitable biomass and recruitment indices have changed little during the past decade with the exception of a 2014 spike. Surveys suggest recruitment will be unchanged in 2018.
3K: The trawl survey exploitable biomass index increased in 2017 from a historical low in 2015-2016. Slight improvements were seen in some nearshore management areas in the trap survey(s) exploitable biomass index in 2017. Recruitment increased from time-series lows in both the trawl and trap surveys from 2016 to 2017.
3LNO: The exploitable biomass index remains at or near time-series lows in both the trawl and trap surveys. Overall recruitment into the exploitable biomass has been at or near time-series lows in both surveys in the past two years.
3Ps: The trawl survey exploitable biomass index was at a time series low in 2016 but improved slightly in 2017. The trap survey index suggests considerable improvements in the exploitable biomass throughout the major fishing grounds.
3L (inshore): The exploitable biomass index has declined 73 per cent since 2012, reaching a time-series low in 2017. Overall recruitment has steadily declined for the past three years to a time-series low in 2017. Survey indices from all management areas at or near historical lows.
4R3Pn: The exploitable biomass index most recently peaked in 2012 and has since declined to a time-series low in 2017, reflecting trends in all surveyed areas. Recruitment has been low for the past four years.
The recent snow crab stock assessment results will be presented and discussed at industry consultations held throughout the province, which are scheduled to begin on March 6. DFO senior regional officials will consider advice from DFO Science and input from industry in developing future Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and other management actions.