Flooded market has Dungeness crab prices way down

Crab traps in the Santa Cruz Harbor.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Live crabs are going for $9 per pound at H&H Fresh Fish Co. in the Santa Cruz Harbor, less than half of the $20 mark seen in recent holiday seasons. “It’s great for the customer,” says an H&H co-owner, “but bad for the fishermen.”

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After waiting more than six weeks for the Dungeness crab season to finally open in early January, customers have no doubt noticed that prices are lower than they have been in recent years. At H&H Fresh Fish Co. in the Santa Cruz Harbor, which prioritizes sourcing crab from local fishermen, the price for cooked Dungeness crab is $15 per pound and $9 per pound for live crabs. That’s half as much as the 2021-22 crab season, when the price for live crab hovered between $14 to $18 per pound and rose above $20 around that holiday season, while cooked crab was around $18 per pound.

At local supermarkets, cooked and cleaned Dungeness crab is currently available in most meat departments for around $12 per pound, and national corporate chains are offering it for as low as $6 per pound. What’s going on?

An excess of Dungeness crab in the California market is lowering prices, explains Hans Haveman, a co-owner of H&H Fresh Fish Co, especially on the north coast. Local markets also source from that area, so lower prices trickle down and affect the crab prices here in Santa Cruz County.

“It’s great for the customer, but bad for the fishermen,” Haveman said. He’s set to meet with Rep. Jimmy Panetta this week to discuss ways to support Monterey Bay fishermen who are facing financial hardship due to delays in the crab season and now low prices.

Call ahead to see if your local market has cooked crab, or visit H&H Fresh Fish Co. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily in the Santa Cruz Harbor. More info at hhfreshfish.com.