No easy substitute for Russian king crab banned from US

Boiled king crab.

With Alaska’s red king crab fishery closed due to biomass issues, there will be no easy substitution for the king crab that had flowed into the United States until U.S. President Joe Biden banned all Russian seafood imports in March 2022.

The ban began in June 2022, and was preceded by a surge of imports of Russian king crab as seafood dealers sought to top off their supplies, bringing in more than 9 million pounds in the month before it came into effect.

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute Executive Director Jeremy Woodrow, speaking at the shellfish panel at the 2023 Global Seafood Market Conference in Palm Springs, California, U.S.A. on 18 January, said the Alaska Department of Fish and Game canceled all snow crab, red king crab, and blue king crab seasons for 2022-2023, after trawl surveys showed a continuing crash in abundance. The winter red king crab season in Alaska’s Bering Sea was also canceled in 2021-2022.

Over the last few years, the Bering Sea has seen a warming pattern. The scientists are telling us it's been unfavorable for both snow crab and king crab,” Woodrow said. “This was compounded by a lack of surveys not being done due to Covid, and fishing was still being executed during that time. When they finally did a survey, they realized that there was not as much crab in the ocean as they maybe have thought there should have been, and so tthe scientists have determined, along with regulators, that there can't be a sustainable harvest right now, and actually the crab stocks are low enough where it might be a few years before there’s a good sustainable harvest.”

The only crab markets opening in Alaska this year – all on 12 February – will be the Kodiak and Westward Region tanner (bairdi) crab fishery, with a total allowable catch of 7.3 million pounds,

Southeast Alaska tanner crab, with a TAC of 1.4 million pounds, and the gold king crab fishery, with a small TAC of just 74,000 pounds. The Eastern Aleutian Islands Golden king crab fishery, which opened in June 2022, has caught nearly 1.5 million pounds of its total allowable catch of nearly 3 million pounds. The season closes in April 2023.

There's about five million pounds of golden king crab they'll be harvested from the state this year, so if you're looking for that replacement for Russian king crab, that's your best bet right now,” Woodrow said.

But Direct Source Seafood CEO Roman Tkachenko said at GSMC the Alaskan crab won’t get close to covering demand ... 

Photo courtesy of Nishihama/Shutterstock

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