Low Dungeness landings resulting in 'crazy' prices

Published on
February 26, 2014

Dungeness crab landings are lower across the U.S. West Coast this season, driving prices higher.

“It is pretty dismal, compared to the banner year we just came off of,” Peter Calvass, marine biologist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told SeafoodSource. As of mid-February, fishermen landed 10.7 million pounds of Dungeness crab statewide, compared to 24.4 million pounds for the full season in 2013. The ex-vessel value reached USD 31.9 million (EUR 23.3 million) by mid-February.

Oregon landings are also down this season, but are ahead of California. As of 25 February, Oregon landed 12.65 million pounds with an ex-vessel value of USD 38.98 million (EUR 28.5 million). Last year, total Dungeness landings reached 18.2 million pounds.

“It is just Mother Nature. There are only so many Dungeness crab to harvest every year,” Hugh Link, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission told SeafoodSource. “Throughout the 100-year history [of the fishery], it has its ups and downs. It is very cyclical and we are coming off four years in a row where the landings were 17 million pounds or higher,” Calvass said.

As a result of this season’s shorter supply, boat prices have spiked to between USD 5 (EUR 3.65) and USD 5.50 (EUR 4.02) a pound. “The average prices are just crazy right now. Average [boat prices] are just under USD 5 a pound,” Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, told SeafoodSource.

“We have not been buying much whole, live crab. Supply is really very tight and the retailers are not demanding it,” Harry Mahleres, director of purchasing for Seattle Fish Co. in Denver, Colo., told SeafoodSource. However, Seattle Fish is buying Dungeness crab meat, which has realized a price hike of 25 to 30 percent, Mahleres said.

In Oregon, fishermen started out the season with the “highest” contracted season starting price at USD 2.65 (EUR 1.94) a pound, according to Link. However, prices quickly rose when demand soared before Chinese New Year.

“There was some export action right around the Chinese New Year, which usually raises the price to everyone,” Link said.

As a result of tighter supply in the Dungeness crab fishery, distributors and others are predicting higher demand and prices for this season’s snow crab. “It makes sense for some of the foodservice operators and buffets to offer snow crab if it is less expensive,” Link said.

Meanwhile, Dungeness landings are also lower in Washington, which reported 8.76 million pounds for statewide and tribal landings through mid-February. Last year at this time, statewide and tribal landings had reached approximately 12.5 million pounds. “A lot of that catch came out of the blocks early on and dropped off. It doesn’t bode well for rest of the season,” Ayres said.

Contributing Editor



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