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3-Minute Market Insight

EP 527 | AIRED 03/01/2021

Dungeness Crab Pricing on the Rise; Unusual Start to the Season

March 1, 2021 --- This week we provide an Update on the Dungeness Crab Market as Washington State and Oregon fisheries start harvesting crab after both fisheries had their season openers delayed.

--- Our pulse on current Dungeness Crab pricing is suggesting an upward trend in what looks to be an unusual start to the season.

Dungeness fisheries in Washington, Oregon, and California are supposed to open around December each year; however, all three fisheries experienced opening delays again this season due to factors such as high marine toxin levels, price negotiations, and whale entanglement risk.

In January, opening delays did not seem to affect the market, as King Crab and Snow Crab continued to grab the lion’s share of sales in the retail landscape, and much of the market was still working through older inventories of Dungeness.

As Oregon's southern fishery opened January 8th, and Washington and Northern Oregon opened February 16th, the marketplace should have started seeing more frozen offers - however this is not the case.

Last week, we were able to list 2 Dungeness offers on our TradexLIVE platform and although the initial response from the market was that the price was on the higher end, those offers ultimately did not last long and were sold off immediately.

The speculation now is whether inventories of Dungeness are actually low, or if stock is purposely being held back until further into the year.

Global Dungeness Crab Harvest Totals

In speaking with Tim Novotny at the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission last week; He advised that landings are considered slower than recent years with latest figures out of Oregon at just under 10 million pounds landed 6 to 7 weeks into this season.

Compare this to last year where 12 million pounds were landed in just the first three weeks.

As this fishery has always been a cyclical fishery with up and down years, Tim is predicting this season to be a low year compared to the plus/minus 20 million pounds seen over last few years.

Majority of Dungeness crab caught in the commercial fishery are around age 4 when they enter the legal size range of the fishery (commercial minimum size is 6.25in).

Crab that pass through at least one season of the fishery while being of legal size without being caught are commonly described as holdover crab and around 5 years of age.

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--- Our recommendation is to secure offers of Dungeness as they become available for your requirements as we are seeing an upward price trend.

2020 saw an estimated 50 million pounds of Dungeness harvested globally from Alaska to California compared to 67 million in 2019 and 70 million in 2018.

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Although Alaska and Canada are anticipated to see another good year, lower harvest out of Oregon may put global harvest totals lower than 2020.

Alaska's summer Dungeness Fishery opens in June and last season was touted as one of the largest harvest on record at 6.68 million pounds.

The Dungeness fishery in British Columbia Canada is open all year and although Fisheries and Oceans Canada is still not able to confirm harvest totals for 2020, fishery managers advised that last year was another great fishing season where 18.2 million pounds were harvested in 2019.

--- Just for some comparison with Snow Crab, Alaska's season runs from October to May and so far 15.7 million pounds have been harvested of a Total Allowable Catch of 45 million pounds.

Canada's Snow Crab fisheries runs from roughly Spring to Summer and preliminary harvest totals for 2020 are for about 144.5 million pounds.

Alaska & Canada Snow Crab Harvest Totals and Seasons Dates

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