« November 2006 Table of Contents
No relief in sight for snow crab until Alaska's Bering
Sea fishery picks up
- Steven Hedlund
November 01, 2006
The market for snow crab ( Chionoecetes opilio ) is in a
holding pattern. Demand and prices are high and should remain
so through early 2007.
"Availability is extremely tight," says Chris Limberg,
national sales manager for Harbor Seafood in New Hyde Park,
N.Y. "Demand currently outweighs supply, and that's continuing
to drive up the market."
No supply or price relief is expected until Alaska's Bering
Sea snow crab fishery picks up in 2007, says Limberg.
The Bering Sea harvest officially kicked off Oct. 15. The
2006-07 quota is set at 36.6 million pounds, down slightly from
37.2 million pounds in 2005-06.
The 2005 season - the first to be managed under the
individual fishing quota system - didn't get under way until
January; only about 1 million pounds were caught between
October and December.
By early March, only 17 million pounds were landed. But the
snow crab fishery took off in March when the cod harvest
subsided, and by mid-April landings topped 33 million
By early June, when the quota was met and the fishery
closed, 5-ounce-and-up Alaska opilio clusters brought $3.10 to
By mid-October, Newfoundland's snow crab fishery was all but
over; fishermen were about 700 metric tons shy of the
46,233-metric-ton quota, down from 49,978 metric tons in
According to Urner Barry Publications of Toms River, N.J.,
Newfoundland opilio clusters commanded $3.10 to $3.20 for
4s-and-up, $3.55 to $3.65 for 5-8s and $3.70 to $3.80 for
8s-and-up in mid-October. Gulf of St. Lawrence opilio clusters
cost 5 to 10 cents a pound more.
Some buyers, says Limberg, are resisting high-priced snow
crab, opting instead for king crab, a current bargain.
Alaska's Bering Sea tanner crab ( C. bairdi ) fishery also
kicked off Oct. 15. The 2006-07 quota was set at 3 million
pounds - almost double 2005-06's 1.6-million-pound quota.
Supply and demand were in balance last month for Asian
blue-swimming-crab ( Portunus spp .) meat, even though through
August total U.S. imports of product were down 5 percent, to
28.9 million pounds, from a year ago.
In mid-October, 16-ounce cans of pasteurized Asian crabmeat
were quoted in the mid- to high-$15 range for jumbo lump,
mid-$9 range for backfin and lump, mid-$8 range for backfin,
mid-$6 range for special and mid-$4 range for claw.
Pasteurized Venezuelan crabmeat was tagged in the mid-$14
range for jumbo lump, mid- to high-$6 range for backfin and
lump, low-$5 range for special, mid- to high-$4 range for
backfin and high-$3 range for claw.
The domestic blue crab ( Callinectes sapidus ) harvest was
hindered by inclement weather this season.
Supplies of hardshell crabs are limited. In mid-October, No.
1 Jimmies fetched $65 to $70 a bushel, up from $30 to $35 in
the summer, while No. 2s brought $30 to $40, up from $20 and
$25 in the summer.
Prices of softshell crabs remained high throughout this
season. Whales and jumbos exceeded $50 a dozen in April but
slipped under $20 in the summer when the fishery peaked.
By season's end in the fall, whales climbed back to $40 to
$45, jumbos to $25 to $35. - S.H.