Snow crab prices, supplies plummet in US market

Snow crab prices and imports to the US are down significantly across the board.

by | May 19, 2022

Filed Under Catch Updates | Markets

Crab from Russia, Canada supply the US

Snow crab fishing areas off Eastern Canada

Prices for snow crab have “fallen out of the sky”  in the first four months of 2022, according to Undercurrent News (UCN).

UCN’s Jason Huffman reported that the average wholesale price of 5-8 ounce frozen crab clusters from Eastern Canada on May 5 was $11 – $11.25 per pound.

On January 11 snow crab prices were averaging $16.80-$17.05 from both Newfoundland and Labrador and $16.90-$17.15 for crab from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. That’s a drop of 33% to 36%, respectively.

Eastern Canada is the world’s largest producer of snow crab. The 2022 catch quota there is over 111 million pounds, a more than 32% increase over last year.

Frozen snow crab clusters from Russia, the second largest producer, also were down 34%-37% from the average $16.75-$16.95 in January. That catch quota is about 103 million pounds, up  by 4%.

Distribution area of snow crab (source: Dr Sergei Bakanev, PINRO, Murmansk, Russia). 

Distribution area of snow crab (source: Dr Sergei Bakanev, PINRO, Murmansk, Russia). 

Meanwhile, Alaska’s 2022 snow crab catch quota is just 5.6 million pounds, down nearly 90% from last year.

“Snow crab market prices have declined 30% over the last four months and new season Canadian is being met with lackluster demand held up by high-cost existing inventories and economic changes as well as changes in consumer behavior,” crab market expert Les Hodges of Seattle said in his recent monthly newsletter.

UCN’s Huffman said Hodges pointed to US consumers facing the highest inflation rate in 40 years along with rising interest rates, Undercurrent said. That is making them more careful where they spend their money. More also are starting to travel and go out to eat again, making them less likely to spend on high-end retail food items.


 “Unlike 2021, the US market is not dry but rather many would-be participants are sitting with inventory from 2021,” Hodges said, adding: “At the time of this writing no one seems to want to buy large quantities but rather only hand-to-mouth until prices settle and support is found.”

Another major importer/wholesaler told Undercurrent that consumers are fatigued by the high prices of some seafood items, including snow crab.

Snow crab imports decline sharply

The volume of US snow crab imports trailed off significantly in March 2022, based on NOAA’s latest seafood trade data update, UCN reported. The overall 68% drop in volume in March from one year ago was “heavily linked to the US ban on Russian seafood ordered by President Biden on March 11.

From Undercurrent News based on NOAA trade data

Russia is the source for 30% of all the snow crab and 90% of the king crab imported to the US, according to Hodges’ estimates.

 The US imported 257 metric tons (565,400 pounds) of Russian snow crab worth $5.8 million in March, decreases of 86% in volume and 84% in value from March 2021.

Martin Sullivan of Ocean Choice International in St. John’s (Canada), one of the largest distributors of snow crab, told Undercurrent in March that a price drop was on the horizon. He pointed to inventory still remaining from the previous season and “the bruises crab buyers still carried from the earlier, pandemic fueled price jumps.

Sullivan said at the time that there needs to be some downward adjustment in price to move all of the snow crab volume.  

Tagged as: snow crab

About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.


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