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3-Minute Market Insight

EP 495 | AIRED 07/06/2020

Dungeness Crab Season Update, Alaska’s Dungeness Harvest Forecast, COVID-19 Affects

July 6th, 2020 --- In this week's episode we provide an update on all Dungeness Crab Fisheries from Alaska to California.

---- Let's start in Alaska. Since the start of Alaska's Dungeness Crab Fishery on June 15th, Crab fishermen harvested approximately 960,000 pounds in the first seven days of the season.

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The California Market Squid Season runs from April 1st to March 31st each year.

Fishery managers use catch data from the first week of fishing to predict the total catch for the season.

In talking to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Fishery Biologist Joseph Stratman, data run through their regression model provides a full season harvest estimate of 4.3 million pounds.

During the 2019 and 2018 seasons, Alaska Crab fishermen brought in 5.3 million and 4.08 million pounds Dungeness Crab respectively.

Dungeness Numbers

--- Moving down the West Coast to British Columbia, Canada and the conditions are a bit different compared with previous seasons.

The fishery's largest-producing area (Area A) has been shut down for softshell issues since April 8th, and other areas are reporting average catches for this time of year.

However, crabbers are hopeful for large abundances in area A based on the softshell data.

In talking to Fisheries and Oceans Canada North Coast Crab Manager, Dillon Buerk advised "We will begin to hear more in just over a week's time, as the first fishing trips start offloading."

In a request for harvest data from DFO and they were still not able to produce any catch data from the 2019 Dungeness Crab fishery.

2018 saw just over 10 million Dungeness harvested in B.C. Canada.

--- Continuing down along the West Coast we have the Washington State Dungeness Crab fishery next.

Like so many others, this year's fishery was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, a high initial price early in the season (when most of the crab is landed), was able to counteract some of the financial impact due to COVID.

Overall the fishery is slightly below the 10 year average both in pounds landed and total ex-vessel value.

To date, just under 12 million pounds of Dungeness Crab have been landed with an ex-vessel value of approximately $37.8 million dollars.

During the 2019 and 2018 seasons, Washington state fishermen brought in 11.7 million and 12.4 million pounds of Dungeness Crab respectively.

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--- Moving onto the Oregon fishery and to date just under 20 million pounds of Dungeness Crab have been landed into Oregon ports with ex-vessel value of just over $72 million dollars.

In talking to Troy Buell with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and he advised that "The coronavirus pandemic depressed price per pound somewhat in March and April".

Typically prices increase during that time peaking in April or May however this year saw a slight decline in March.

Troy noted that there was some recovery for prices in April but was still lower than all but one of the previous five seasons’ April price, and then we saw recovery to normal prices in May and June.

Troy also noted that as a result of the price drop, some boats exited the fishery earlier than normal - where normal is typically March or April as the catch-per-pot drops off dramatically.

During the 2019 and 2018 seasons, Oregon fishermen brought in 18.7 million and 23 million pounds of Dungeness Crab respectively.

Fishery Delays

--- Lastly, we have the California Dungeness Crab Fishery.

Due to increased marine life entanglement risk, this fishery suffered a delayed opening (of December 15th) and also suffered an early closure (of May 15th) in the Central Management Area.

The fishery opening of the Northern Management Area (North of the Sonoma/Mendocino County Line) was delayed until December 31st due to the Crab meat quality issue (which was meat weight compared to total crab weight).

This fishery is still currently open but industry is waiting on a risk determination from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director but at time of this report - is scheduled to close July 15.

In talking to CDFW Environmental Scientist Christy J. she advised that "Compared to last season we are seeing an overall increase in landings for the central area from 3.7 million to 8.4 million pounds, while the northern is showing a decrease from 9.4 million to 5.4 million pounds."

This brings a preliminary total of approximately 13.8 million pounds for the 2020 season compared to 13.5 million in 2019, and 20.4 million in 2018.

--- And finally moving onto the market side and an estimated total of 46.8 million pounds of New Season Dungeness has been harvested for the market.

Pricing on Dungeness have been ticking upwards all year however there is speculation that pricing may be at or near its peak as retail moves past 4th of July food sales.

With the COVID pandemic moving into summer but still affecting foodservice and retail sales, it is extremely difficult to make any sort of logical or statistical forecast.

With that said, our recommendation is to buy as inventory needs only for your Dungeness Crab needs.

If you are in need of frozen or live Dungeness, please contact the reliable seafood experts at Tradex Foods to help secure your Crab requirements.

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