Shrimp fishing: the season will not be profitable, according to industry players

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Shrimp fishing: the season will not be profitable, according to industry players

Northern shrimp caught off Sept-Îles (archives).

Although the shrimp fishery did not officially begin until June 9 after weeks of negotiations, the season already promises to be difficult, both for fishermen and for processors. On both sides, we say in advance that the season will not be profitable and that we expected it.

It is sure that part of the fleet will have to absorb deficits this season. […] From an economic point of view, from a profitability point of view, it is sure that it will not be a good year for fishermen, explains the director of the Office of shrimp fishermen of Quebec, Patrice Element.

“This year, we are not in a profit sharing mode, we are in a loss sharing mode. »

— Patrice Element, Director of the Quebec Shrimp Fishermen's Office

The director general of the Quebec Association of the fishing industry (AQIP), Jean-Paul Gagné, makes the same observation. At the moment it is not profitable and it is not expected to be profitable. It's going to be a deficit year.

Jean-Paul Gagné, general manager of AQIP (archives)< /p>

Several factors are involved when it comes to the profitability of the industry. For processors, it is mainly the increase in the landed price, set following talks held this spring, which has had a major impact.

The factories had agreed to pay $1.60 for large shrimp, $1.38 for second-grade shrimp and $1.22 for small shrimp at the end of negotiations that lasted several weeks.

< p class="e-p">Jean-Paul Gagné says processors accepted the prices demanded by fishers only to keep their employees and their markets. According to him, there was never any question of profitability in this decision-making.

With the price they asked to go fishing, they must have thought they had a certain profitability or at least not be loss-making. We accepted their price so that there would be a fishery, but not because it was worth that price for us, recalls Mr. Gagné.

The still fragile recovery of international markets and the increase in plant operating costs also explains this loss of profits.

The European market has not improved and there is no increase either on the Quebec market, says the general manager of AQIP.

The director of the Quebec Shrimp Fishermen's Office, Patrice Element (archives)

As for the shrimpers, even if the dockside price is better than last year, the drop in quotas and the increase in fuel prices are hitting the fleets hard.

Although the cost of gasoline has fallen in recent weeks, fishermen are still paying almost double the bill of last year, recalls the director of the 'Quebec Shrimp Fishermen's Office, Patrice Element.

The profitability of fishing will therefore depend on the capacity of each fisherman to absorb the deficits of this season. Mr. Element points out that the situation will be different for each of them.

He argues that those with larger quotas and less debt will benefit, while it may be more difficult for those who have bought fishing companies at a high price in recent years and who have significant debts.

“A fisherman who has larger quotas is going to have a larger volume to absorb their fixed costs, such as licenses and repairs. There is also debt, because people who have bought a fishing business in recent years have to make payments that others do not. »

— Patrice Element, Director of the Quebec Shrimp Fishermen's Office

The director of the Quebec Shrimp Fishermen's Office adds that once the selling price of the product is set, one of the only other factors that can affect profitability is the catch rate.

Since the shrimp fishery began, Mr. Element has observed that catches in the Anticosti area are lower and less interesting than those recorded in the Sept- Islands and Estuary.

For those who have a larger share of their quota in the Anticosti zone, it will be more difficult too, he warns.

Shrimp fishing areas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (archives)

However, processors and shrimpers are not giving up. Several measures will be implemented this fall to stimulate demand for Quebec shrimp internationally, with the help of the Canadian Fish and Seafood Initiatives Fund. < /p>

The general manager of AQIP talks about a shrimp promotion program that would last three years and that would be done in collaboration with New Brunswick, which is experiencing the same situation as us.

The provinces are still waiting for a return from the federal government, but Jean-Paul Gagné is convinced that the response will be positive.

< blockquote class="sc-ciZhAO gbofEG blockquote">

“We want that to unlock the shrimp market. We want it to come back to how it was and we are [far] from that right now. »

— Jean-Paul Gagné, General Manager of AQIP

Patrice Element is not losing hope either. We are hopeful that it will improve in the next few years. Already, there are positive indicators on the market side. It won't change anything for this season, but it's a light at the end of the tunnel.

The shrimp fishing season started more than 10 weeks after the official date authorized to go to sea (archives) .

The fishing season will end when the shrimpers have taken their quotas. At the current rate, Mr. Element expects the majority to finish around the end of September or mid-October. He adds, however, that the season can continue until December 31.

For his part, Jean-Paul Gagné hopes that processors and fishermen will get along better in the years to come.

I wish we would work together more. We have no choice, so I think that over the years, we should be able to get along better from the start and find solutions together.

With information from Alice Proulx.

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