Analysis of 2016 National Marine Fishery Service trawl surveys for Eastern Bering Sea Subdistrict Tanner crab stock, Saint Matthew Island Section blue king crab, and the Pribilof District red and blue king crab were below minimum stock size threshold, and will remain closed for the season, said Alaska Department of Fish and Game area management biologists at Dutch Harbor.
The economic impact of the lower quotas and closed crab fisheries is likely to result in record prices for what crab is harvested, while having a very negative impact on the incomes of harvesters, coastal communities dependent on that income and landing taxes paid to the state of Alaska.
It will have a significant impact, said Eric Donaldson, vice president of The Crab Broker, with offices in Florida and Las Vegas.
“A big component of this whole thing is the numerous economic impacts that will be felt by crab fishermen, communities and state of Alaska landing tax,” he said.
Information compiled by the Alaska Department of Revenue shows that in 2015, the latest year for which tax totals on all crab fisheries were available, shows that the state collected approximately $8.9 million in fisheries business taxes and fishery resource landing taxes. These taxes are shared 50/50 with municipalities where the processing and exporting activity takes place.
“While prices have not been established yet, the market is strong,” Donaldson said.
“My anticipation is that finished goods will be absorbed very quickly this year, and we will see record prices this year barring something way out in left field.”
“Initial indicators are that Japanese interest will be what it was last year, and the yen is in a better position this year,” Donaldson said.
Russian crab that had competed heavily with Alaska king crab in Japanese and domestic markets is now headed mainly for China and Korean buyers.
New agreements between Japan and Russia allow that no undocumented crab can be landed in Japan, so Russians are taking it to Busan, Korea, where there are no such restrictions, he said.
Alaska crab will find strong markets in Japan, where the crab is more highly revered than in US domestic markets, he said.
Jake Jacobsen, executive director of the Intercoop Exchange in Seattle, noted that prices for all crab have been trending upward through this year. The announcement of bairdi and St. Matthew closures, the reduction in king crab and opilio TACs (total allowable catches) will push prices up even further, he said.
“I’m not sure how far it will go at this point, but I’m looking at what will likely be record prices for all crab species,” he said. “As the price goes up, the size of the market shrinks. That’s elementary economics, but somebody will be willing to pay for it,” he said.