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The end of the Acadian Peninsula’s crab-fishing boom in the 1980s

The crab catch was down, and so were hopes for what it could provide for New Brunswickers.

“In the early ’80s, crab became to the Acadian Peninsula what gold was once to the Klondike,” the CBC’s Kevin Evans told viewers who were watching Sunday Report on June 26, 1988.

“The Gulf of St. Lawrence was one of the world’s few remaining areas where the high-priced delicacy had not been fished out of existence.”

A lot of crab fishing followed, along with some good times. And the jobs that flowed from that catch employed thousands of people at processing plants, keeping them eligible for unemployment benefits during the off-season.

‘It will never return’

The Acadian Peninsula had seen its crab catch drop substantially over the course of the 1980s. (Sunday Report/CBC Archives)

But as the 1980s drew nearer, fewer crabs were being found and people knew what kind of future was on the horizon.

“Fisheries biologists say the resource has been crippled by the intense fishing effort, that it will never return to the levels of a few years ago,” said Evans, noting the catch had “dropped dramatically” in the most recent two years to that point.

One crab fisherman who spoke to CBC News compared finding crab at that time to looking for water in a desert.

‘The boom is over’

By 1988, the crab catch in the Acadian Peninsula of northern New Brunswick was down well below where it was at the start of the 1980s. (Sunday Report/CBC Archives)

As of 1988, Evans said crab plants in the region employed less than half the number of workers they did the year before.

The provincial government planned to spend $4 million to help some of the crab industry workers retrain for other kinds of employment.

“The boom is over and a painful period of readjustment has just begun,” said Evans.

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