Prices are down a bit, but demand remains strong, as harvesters of Alaska’s deadliest catch, albeit multi-million dollar crab fishery await stock survey results that will determine quotas for the 2013-2014 fishery.
Online marketers in Alaska like FishEx, in Anchorage, were asking nearly $36 a pound in early August for frozen giant king crab legs, nearly $49 a pound for Alaska king crab meat and $29.21 a pound for split Alaska red king crab legs. Alaska snow crab, also known as opilio, was selling for $11 a pound, and split red king crab legs for $37.46 a pound.
Negotiations with Japanese buyers of red king crab are still weeks away and negotiations for opilio crab traditionally begin in January, but some marketers of Alaska crab are meanwhile engaged in what they describe as “ a big row” with Walmart over what they say are indications that Walmart is showing a preference for Russian crab.
“The primary factor has been there have been some treaties signed between Russia, Japan, Korea and China intended to deal with illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities,” said Jake Jacobsen, executive director for the Inter-cooperative Exchange in Seattle. “Those treaties were signed, but not implemented, so there was a move to get as much landed as they could before the treaties went into effect.” There are large quantities of snow crab and king crab from Russia this year and it is illegal, unregulated and unreported crab,” he said.
"Alaska's crab fisheries are some of the best managed in the world,” said Tyson Fick, a spokesman for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
“With all of the well-documented troubles the Russian fisheries have had with illegal, unreported, and unregulated crab entering the world market it is surprising that we would have Walmart saying they will purchase crab from that fishery because it is supposedly defined as sustainable because of a fisheries improvement project. We will continue to rely on all that Alaska has to offer, such as the strong reputation we have for fisheries management and the highest quality product," Fick said.
Walmart spokesman Christopher Schraeder denied that there are efforts underway to purchase Russian crab over Alaskan crab.
The company “has bought wild Alaska crab in the past and will buy it this year,” Schraeder said.
WalMart announced back in February 2006 plans to purchase all of its wild-caught fresh and frozen fish for U.S. markets from the Marine Stewardship Council certified fisheries.
Schraeder notes that company policy requires that all wild seafood suppliers be third-party certified as sustainable using Marine Stewardship Council, Best Aquaculture Practices or equivalent standards.
But crab processors doing business in Alaska have chosen to not use the MSC certification program.
Instead the Alaska’s Bering Sea and Aleutian Island blue and red king crab and snow crab fisheries are certified sustainable by the Global Trust program, which is facilitated by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. The Global Trust program is modeled on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization based responsible fisheries management certification, and for Alaska seafood is facilitated by ASMI.
On August 6, ASMI announced that the first annual audit of Alaska Bering Sea and Aleutian Island blue and red king and snow crab fisheries for responsible fisheries management certification had been completed.