Limited availability of Alaska red king crab gives it dominant market position

A red king crab caught in Alaska's Bristol Bay.

This year’s quota for Alaska’s Bristol Bay commercial red king crab season was smaller than usual, but fishermen are reaping the reward of high demand in the lead-up to the holidays.

More than 99 percent of the 2.1-milllion-pound quota has already been caught by 31 vessels, according to KUCB. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Area Management Biologist Ethan Nichols said while the total allowable catch was less than half of the 2018-2019 season, it was still welcomed by the region’s fishermen. Bristol Bay struggled with a financially difficult salmon season this past summer, the Bering Sea snow crab fishery remains closed for a second straight year, and Southeast Alaska’s red and blue king crab fisheries have been closed since 2017.

“The red king crab and tanner fisheries are obviously small this year, but I think they're really important for helping the industry stay afloat through these years where we haven't had a snow crab fishery, which is really the bread and butter for the crab fleet in the Bering Sea,” Nichols said.

Nichols said called the fishing season “average,” with pot sizes and crab weight around previous norms.

“It varied a lot amongst the fleet, but I got a lot of positive feedback from captains,” he said. “They were seeing good numbers in their pots and a good mix of smaller males, and also females, they say, were working further to the east.”

Nichols said processors are paying around USD 8.00 (EUR 7.28) per pound for king crab, which doesn’t include retros, or bonuses, which could bring the total price up to USD 15.00 (EUR 13.65). 

With a resilient U.S. economy and a ban on Russian king crab imports, the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery is commanding a premium in the market, according to crab expert Les Hodges. He reported U. S. king crab imports are down …

Photo courtesy of Don Serhio/Shutterstock

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