Caribbean crawfish fishers cashing in on “the highest price ever”
Caribbean crawfish catches for the 2019/2020 season are reportedly reaping “the highest price ever,” according to regional harvesters.
Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance Vice President Keith Carroll told The Tribune newspaper that more access to foreign markets has resulted in higher demand – and prices – for crawfish and spiny lobster in the Caribbean.
"I've been fishing for 35 years and this is the highest price ever the crawfish season has opened with. Price is ranging from [USD] 14 - [USD] 15.50 [EUR 12.69 to 14.05] per pound," Carroll said.
"For years we have been trying to get into the Chinese market. We are allowed to ship seafood from here to China. It's a bigger market for The Bahamas. We are now MSC certified and we can ship our lobsters all over the world and they would be accepted. We have more markets. We don't just have to depend on Europe and America. Our lobster is number one in the world. It's all about supply and demand,” he added.
The Caribbean saw its first fishery certified under the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) fishery standard in August 2018: the Bahamas spiny lobster fishery. The certification has helped the fishery’s landings reach new marketplaces that place premiums on sustainability, Carroll told The Tribune.
"With the certification, the lobster tails are now eligible to carry the internationally recognized MSC blue fish label, which makes it easy for consumers to know that they're choosing seafood that is as good for the ocean as it is for them,” Carroll said.
Despite elevated prices and demand, Carroll said some fishermen are reporting greater crawfish yield than last year, while others are reporting less.
There are concerns about what the passage of Hurricane Dorian will mean for the Northern Bahamas and its fishermen, added Carroll.
"You're talking about Abaco, Moore's Island, Sweeting's Cay and guys from West End. That's about 25 percent of fishermen. All of the boats are secure but a lot of the crawfish traps or condos are going to be lost and that's a setback,” he said, according to The Tribune.
A USD 90 million (EUR 81.6 million) industry, the crawfish and spiny lobster trade in the Bahamas employs 9,000 fisherman. More than six million pounds of spiny lobster tails from the region are exported to the United States and Europe, with exports capped at 5 million pounds. When the Bahamas spiny lobster fishery was first certified last year, U.S. seafood supplier Mazzetta Company told SeafoodSource it had plans to offer the product to its customers.
“Mazzetta Company has been a long-time partner and supporter of the Bahamian lobster industry; so encouraging their efforts to achieve MSC certification was a natural role for us. In the long run, we see this as the right decision for the growth and viability of the industry and also essential to ensure that future generations have the same resources available to them that exist today,” the company said. “We compliment those who have worked very hard in the Bahamas to get this done. We look forward to offering MSC-[certified] Bahamas lobster alongside MSC-[certified] Canadian, Maine, and Tristan lobster.”
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