Crab quota cuts in the USA, increases in the Russian Federation


Whereas the USA is cutting king and snow crab quotas dramatically, the Russian Federation quotas are increasing. Overall, global supplies will decrease, with prices at record levels.


The total allowable catch (TAC) for snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) in the Bering Sea District has been set at 8 784 tonnes for the 2016/17 season. This represents a reduction of over 53 percent compared with the 2015/16 season. Since the 2007/08 season, landings of snow crab in this region have declined, and the TAC for the coming season was based on recent surveys of the resource. Alaska quotas for king crab have also been cut considerably. In contrast, Russian Federation quotas for king crab increased by 27 percent to 13 022 tonnes, the snow crab quota by 16 percent to 25 674 tonnes, and the tanner crab quota by 15 percent to 5 191 tonnes.

Snow crab fishing in the Barents Sea was closed for the end of 2016 and will stay closed for some time well into 2017. Norway and the Russian Federation are managing this resource jointly, and have agreed to take measures that will make the resource healthy again in order to allow for 150 000 tonnes of harvest annually from the area. The details of the agreement are still being discussed.

International trade

All the major importers of crab are showing increased imports during the first nine months of 2016, reflecting the increasing popularity of crab on major markets. Total world imports of crab increased by only 1.5 percent, to 219 800 tonnes, but prices went up, so the value of this trade increased more. The largest importers were the USA (68 800 tonnes), China (47 600 tonnes), Republic of Korea (32 200 tonnes) and Japan (26 600 tonnes).

Two of the most significant exporters of crab were the Russian Federation and China. While the Russian Federation showed an increase, from 31 200 tonnes during the first nine months of 2015 to 34 400 tonnes during the same period in 2016 (+10.3 percent), China’s exports were at a stand-still at 29 100 tonnes. For both countries, the main market was the Republic of Korea.

US imports during the period increased by 5.6 percent. Main suppliers to the USA were Canada, the Russian Federation and China.

Japan’s imports of crab were up by 18.2 percent. The main suppliers to Japan were the Russian Federation, Canada and the USA. Japanese imports of Russian Federation snow crab have been dramatically reduced since 2014, when Japan and the Russian Federation entered into an agreement to curb crab poaching and smuggling. Most (95 percent) of the snow crab in Japan is used for processing into stick products and sushi products though recently, whole crab is also increasing in popularity.


The low red king crab supplies this year have led to pressure on prices. The Russian Federation is making less red crab available for the US market, as some of its supplies are now being sold to China. Thus, prices for red crab in the USA have gone up. Ex-vessel prices are around US$10.00–11.00 per pound, compared with US$8.00 per pound last year.

Snow crab prices are also high, pushing to record levels as a result of the quota cuts in Alaska. Total supplies for 2016 are expected to be at least 40 percent below 2015’s figures, and traders are struggling to get the volumes they need. Canadian quotas may also be cut, although only by about 11 percent. As a result, ex-warehouse (EXW) prices have been pushed up to US$8.00 per pound, which is very high for snow crab.

The high prices for japonicus snow crab are likely to continue this season. With low Alaska quotas and expected lower exports from the Russian Federation to the USA, supplies will be tight. Red snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) prices on the Japanese market are also high as a result.

Bristol Bay king crab prices are at record levels, equal to prices during 2011. Prices in Seattle have reached US$20.10 per pound, while in Japan it is reported that cost and freight (C&F) prices of US$19.75 have been paid. The main reason for this price hike is growing demand, with the strong demand on the US market the main price driver in the market.  

The report analyses the market situation over the period January-December 2016

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