Despite a downward trend in seafood sales, the limited availability of king crab and snow crab has driven increased interest in the U.S. market. The official reopening of Alaska's Bristol Bay red king crab fishery on October 15, after a two-year closure, comes with a modest 2.2-million-pound quota. This is a significant reduction from past years, with the total allowable harvest reaching 8.47 million pounds in 2016 and 130 million pounds in 1980.
Crab fishermen in Alaska have reported receiving favorable prices for their catch this season, ranging from around USD 8.00 (EUR 7.37) from processors to up to USD 25.00 (EUR 23.05) in direct sales to consumers. However, the restricted quota raises concerns about the sustainability of their earnings throughout the season.
The absence of snow crab for the second consecutive year poses significant challenges, as acknowledged by Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers President Gabriel Prout. He emphasized the financial strain on the fleet due to the limited availability of this crab species.
The Bering Sea snow crab fishery remains closed for a second year, a consequence of the population decline caused by a marine heatwave in 2019. This closure has left several crab fishing vessel owners facing financial difficulties, with banks now grappling with how to recover revenue that was anticipated when the resource was predicted to be robust.
Mark Stichert, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, noted that the decision to reopen the red king crab fishery was a close call. While the decline has halted, the potential for a rebound in biomass remains uncertain.
In summary, the constrained supply of king and snow crab has defied the overall downturn in seafood sales, presenting both opportunities and challenges for crab fishermen in Alaska.
Source: Cliff White (Nov 15, 2023). Finite supply fuels US market for king and snow crab, defying seafood category dip. Seafood Source. https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/premium/supply-trade/finite-supply-fuels-us-market-for-king-and-snow-crab-defying-seafood-category-dip