Commercial Dungeness crab fishermen on the Washington and Oregon Coast earned $3.10/pound at the beginning of the season in December 2014. By Christmas they received $4.50/pound, and by the middle of February 2015, prices jumped to $9/pound. Why the nearly three times price increase?
One reason is this year’s harvest is down but demand is still high. According to Hugh Link, executive director for the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, last year Oregon fishermen caught 14 million pounds by the middle of February; this year they caught 7 million pounds. The Chinook Observer reported that this year Washington caught 6.2 million pounds by February 5. The quality of crabs has been the best in years, but there aren’t that many of them.
Crab is served more often at holiday parties and dinners during Christmas and New Year’s, so demand is higher. China’s New Year was February 19 and their crab demand was very high. Demand coupled with crab scarcity equals high payment to crab fishermen.
The Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, oregondungeness.org, says that 75% of the crab harvest is caught during the first eight weeks of the season. Crab fishing traditionally drops in the spring as fishermen prepare for other fisheries. Luckily, a small number of boats continue to offer crab throughout the summer months as they fish until the season closes in August.
James Beard, renowned chef, said that crab is a “meal the gods intended only for the pure in palate.” Crab is always in demand; the amount of demand coupled with the amount of crab obviously determines the price.