GLOBEFISH - Information and Analysis on World Fish Trade

Tightening supplies and high prices for snow crab and king crab

10/03/2017

While prices for snow crab and king crab have been high recently due to tighter supplies, prices for other species have not increased. On the US west coast, dungeness crab is in short supply, but prices have barely moved since last year

Supplies

The west coast dungeness crab landings were down by as much as 40–45 percent this year, mainly due to high domoic acid levels. In California, the dungenes crab fishery was completely closed for much of the season due to the levels. Strangely, prices were significantly lower despite scarce supplies, with some blaming the short harvesting season.
In contrast, high levels of domoic acid left the Alaskan crab fishery unscathed. Although landings were slightly down compared with 2015, prices remained steady. The average first-hand price to fishers was up only marginally, from US$2.99 per lb last year to US$3.03 per lb this year (Source: Undercurrent News).

Alaska stocks of snow (opilio) crab and tanner (bairdi) crab may be in some danger, according to reports by Seafood.com. The 2015–2016 snow crab landings were down by 40 percent compared with the 2014–2015 season. Recent NOAA figures indicate that the male biomass has declined for all of the major crab species in the region, with the largest decline registered for opilio crab.

In Canada, snow crab landings were well below the 42 650 tonne quota at the end of the Newfoundland season. According to figures from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 37 958 tonnes had been landed. This is the lowest catch since 1996. Unlike Alaskan and dungeness crab, snow crab prices have risen in response to weak supplies. Snow crab quotas in Alaska were cut by 40 percent, and this helped push snow crab prices up significantly.
Norway reports excellent catches of the local crab species Cancer pagurus, which is very similar to the dungeness crab (Cancer magister). Processors in central Norway reported that they have never before received such large amounts for processing, and the quality is reported to be very good. This species is sold mostly whole fresh or frozen and picked meat packed in crab shell (frozen or fresh), often with the claws as a side product. The largest processor, Hitramat, annually produces around 3 000–4 000 tonnes of this crab.

International trade

During the first half of 2016, US imports of crab increased slightly. Imports grew from 60 800 tonnes to 63 600 tonnes (+4.5 percent).
Japanese imports also rose, but at a steeper rate. During the first half of the year, Japan imported 13 300 tonnes of crab, up from 10 700 during the same period in 2015 (+24.3 percent). However, Japanese imports of Canadian (Newfoundland) snow crab have dropped by half as a result of poor landings, making imports more expensive. The strong yen, which was thought to offset the US dollar price increases somewhat, only partially did so.
Chinese demand for crab is strong, with demand for live crab particularly good. Improved cargo flight service by Cathay Pacific between Portland, Oregon (USA) and Hong Kong SAR has also helped open this new opportunity to West Coast exporters of crab.
Previously, GH has reported on the fight against IUU crab fishing in the Russian Federation and in June, the Russian Federation and China signed an agreement to curb IUU caught crab trade. In recent years, China has become a major destination for illegally caught Russian crab. Much of this trade has been channelled through the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. With this agreement, it is now expected that the illegal trade will taper.

Prices

The big operators in the king crab trade, the Russian Federation and USA (Alaska), are expecting that the present high prices will continue to move upwards, especially for medium and small-sized products. Demand is strong and supplies limited, with higher prices resulting. In addition, the Asian markets are showing growing interest in this product.
Snow crab prices have reached record levels this year due to short supplies. Despite the high prices, global demand seems to be very strong – both in North America as well as in Asia – although exports to Asia are down this year as a result of the tight supply situation.

Northern European (mainly Norwegian) king crab prices have also been very high this season. Catches were a bit behind last year, due to bad weather, but are now picking up again. Volumes landed are still relatively small, and although currently this fishery has little impact on world crab markets, it will be interesting to see how this develops in the long-term.

Prices for blue swimming crab have been low for the past year, but are now beginning to stabilize. Record exports of this product from China and Indonesia have put downward pressure on prices over the past year or so. US imports of blue swimming crab meat were up by about 10 percent in 2015 compared with 2014, and have shown a steady increase over the past three years. According to experts at the recent Global Seafood Marketing Alliance conference in Miami, the oversupply situation is beginning to ease, and prices should therefore stabilize soon.

The report analyses the octopus market situation over the period January-October 2016

 

 

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