Gulf of Mexico crabbers keeping an eye on nearby states in light of tight supply in early 2021
Gulf of Mexico crabbers are navigating into uncertain waters as the spring of 2021 arrives, in a year that began with a dearth of product.
“There’s nothing since Christmas,” said long-time crab dock owner Trudy Luke of Houma, Louisiana, U.S.A., whose family members also regularly harvest blue crabs. “The demand is so high that docks are throwing money out there. I’ve got a fisherman here who usually brings in 100 55-pound pans. Today, he brought in 10.”
Louisiana accounts for more than 30 percent of all blue crab landings in the U.S., and a lion’s share of Gulf of Mexico landings.
High prices at the dock don’t have a positive effect on fishermen when catches are small, particularly with rising fuel prices.
Currently, Louisiana crab prices for the largest specimens in March were as high as USD 4.25 (EUR 3.59) per pound, industry participants said. Number-2 crabs were fetching USD 2.25 (EUR 1.90) per pound, and very small males were getting about USD 1.00 (EUR 0.84).
“Something happened with the weather, the wind, and the cold, so in eastern Louisiana crabbers are working the offshore edge right now, but it’s mostly female crabs,” Louisiana Crab Task Force Chairman Pete Gerica said. “So right now, the prices are going out of the box. This has been a trend now for the past three years, and the demand is for more than the amount of product being produced.”
One thing crabbers are certain of is that low numbers coming into the spring are not the result of crab depletion that occurred over the past decade. A three-year program of halting crab harvesting during specified months in Louisiana – a recommendation from crabbers and processors – has had positive population effect. This is one reason why crabbers are optimistic that as waters warm, the supply will be greater.
Louisiana crabbers say that since the creatures migrate east to west, they’ll get good indications of a comeback when Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida show increases.
“We’re starting to hear a little bit,” Luke said. “It will be coming; We’re hoping in just another couple of weeks.”
Reporting by John DeSantis
Photo courtesy of Florida Sea Grant