With summer and warmer temperatures here it’s a popular time to crack open some crabs. Unfortunately, along the East Coast many are seeing higher prices for the delicacy, and a shortage of Maryland Blue Crabs.
Just a few years ago Jeff Jurkowski worked as a contractor, until the recession hit, and he had a hard time finding work. “I went crabbing one day and we did really well. I was telling the guys ‘you should have seen these crabs I caught last Saturday’ and a couple of them said ‘I would have bought some of them if they were big like that,” said Jurkowski. His family has been in the business all of his life. He used his experience and passion for seafood to start his own business, “Jeff’s Got Crabs & Seafood, “I’ve always been connected to the water, and the Chesapeake. It’s home for me,” said Jurkowski.
For the past two years he has watched wholesale crab prices double, for numerous reasons. To keep his own prices down he has had to absorb a lot of the costs, and sell foods other than crabs. That’s why his price for a dozen crabs hasn’t really budged. “I would be about $90 a dozen for a large crab if I tried to keep the same margin I had two years ago. There’s no way I could do it, we wouldn’t sell them.” He said where consumer are seeing higher costs is for the price of a bushel. “We just can’t afford to discount the volume the way we used to,” said Jurkowski.
Maryland Blue Crabs
Jurkowski said he is mostly selling crabs from Louisiana right now. He plans to soon start selling Maryland Blue Crabs, but the season has started later than usual.
“They came out of the winter hibernation a little later this year because of the colder spring water temperatures,” said Jurkowski. Experts are also seeing less at this time. “There was an approximate 35% die-off of the adult population, that’s from the Department of Natural Resources Dredge Survey. Survivors of last summer, 1/3 of them essentially, died through the winter because of the colder water temperatures.”
Jurkowski has held off on ordering any. “A lot of the crab we would have gotten coming into Memorial Day would have been a pretty light crab; empty; something our customers would have not been happy with,” said Jurkowski. “Right now, the Maryland crab is small, very pricey and light.” But he expects that to change soon. “As bay water temperatures warm up we will see more Maryland Blue Crabs in the area.”
Time to buy
Jurkowski said the best time to buy is at the end of the season as we enter the fall month. “As schools start, in September, and into October,” he said the prices come down significantly, as supply is still high and demand has dropped.
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