Economics of harvesting and market potential for the Texas blue crab industry.




Miller, C.L.
Nichols, J.P.

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Texas A&M University.


Within the Gulf of Mexico region Texas ranks third in blue crab production. Beginning in 1975, two things occurred which directly affected the Texas blue crab industry. The first was an increase in involvement of Northeastern interests in the Gulf processing industry. The second was the influx of Indochinese pickers and crabbers into the Texas crab fishery. These developments resulted in increased production due to more efficient harvesting and processing and an increase in the export of whole crabs and crabmeat to East coast markets. The first purpose of this study is to describe the Texas blue crab industry. The second major objective of the study is to identify market development opportunities within Texas and the surrounding region. The blue crab harvesting sector is comprised of two basic groups, Indochinese and indigenous crabbers. Survey results indicated that the average crabber uses a fiberglass sport boats and 200 traps. According to the survey, returns above costs for a typical crabber are less than $4000. The major problem identified by crabbers is the low ex-vessel price in relation to the price for inputs. The typical crab consumer was shown to be a middle-aged white collar worker. He is usually from a small household and is in the middle income range. Demographic projections indicate that this socioeconomic group will be increasing in number resulting in a growing market for crab. The growing trend toward fast food and the resulting diversification of restaurant menus to include seafood offers another market development opportunity for the crab industry. Currently crab consumption in Texas is estimated to be 4.5 milion pounds of raw crabs. If demographic projections materialize this figure could double. In order to supply a growing market good reliable crabbers will need to be attracted into the industry. The lack of consistent crabbers was a problem before entry of the Vietnamese and could conceivably be a problem again if ex-vessel price does not increase significantly. If a larger regional market should develop, prices rise and greater interest develops in commercial harvest then the resource may come under greater pressure. This suggests that greater emphasis be placed upon more refined public management including licensing of commercial crabbers.


118 p.


blue crab, harvesting, crab fisheries, fisheries, management, costs, fishermen, economics