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Crab market collapse ‘pushing’ fishermen out of business

Fishermen have said they are in danger of being put out of business due to a sudden collapse in the crab market.

A severe fall in demand for Irish brown crab in France, Spain and Portugal has resulted in a 40% reduction in income for Irish crab fishers.

Some fishers have been unable to sell their crab as Irish buyers who export to the continental market are unwilling to take the risk of being left with unwanted stock.

The rising cost of living and a significant increase in the cost of transporting produce to the European continent is believed to have caused the lack of demand.

Eoin Feirtéar, a crab fisher from Dún Chaoin on the Dingle peninsula, said he is having “a disastrous” season. Having invested heavily in a new 12-metre boat, he has been forced to reduce the number of days he spends at sea.

“I have never seen it this bad. The markets for live crab are more or less gone. You are nearly half begging people to take the crab off you. We are down 40-45% on what we would normally bring in. We are only going out once or twice a week now because there is no point. The buyers will not take the crab from us. I am simply trying to keep down costs.

“It is serious. I have a new boat, and I have put a big investment into it. It is not looking good being honest about it. It is tough on crew as well. It is not fair on them going out one or two days a week. This is the time of year that crews on inshore boats should be making money.”

Some fishers have been unable to sell their crab as Irish buyers who export to the continental market are unwilling to take the risk of being left with unwanted stock

Over 430 boats operate in the Irish brown crab fishery, landing almost 6,000 tonnes of crab every year.

Irish crab exports are worth up to €50 million annually, but in recent weeks fishermen have taken a severe hit.

France, Spain, Portugal and China are Ireland’s major export markets for brown crab. A significant slowdown in the Chinese market has been followed by a collapse in France, and now the Spanish market is quickly reducing.

Ronan Forde exports crab to the continental market. He said that Irish buyers like himself are struggling to shift produce and have drastically reduced the amount of crab they can take from fishermen.

“We are only buying premium quality crab at the moment. There is only a certain size we can take. The crab must be large, over 800 grams to sell in Spain.

“The French market has completely collapsed. We are literally giving 30% of the crab back to the fishermen, which is a disaster for them and me.”

Irish crab exports are worth up to €50m annually, but in recent weeks fishermen have taken a severe hit

Poor prices for lobster and the recent introduction of a ban on pollack fishing have added to the difficulties being experienced by inshore fishers.

Ciarán Ó Lúing explained the options for boats like their own have been greatly reduced.

“In the past, if crab prices fell we could fall back on the pollack. Now that is gone as well. It is a complete disaster. Lobster is struggling, and all that is left then is crayfish, and if every fella goes at the cray at the same time, the price will simply crash there too.”


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