Dungeness Crab Shortage Having Widespread Holiday Impact

The Fish Market restaurants will offer a limited supply (if available) of Dungenous Crab through the holiday season. Alternative crab clusters are available. 

By Laura Malpert, NBC Bay Area

Published at 4:10 PM PST on Dec 20, 2017 | Updated at 5:44 PM PST on Dec 20, 2017

Crab fishermen in the Bay Area and those who buy and sell the delicacy are hoping a small Christmas miracle brings a fresh supply of Dungeness crab.

Though the crab season got off to a good start, there is a shortage of Dungeness crab at San Francisco markets. Many are sold out.

One fish market in the city that was turning away crab lovers said if customers haven’t already pre-ordered Dungeness crab for their holiday feast, they’re probably out of luck.

“I’d like to see some more crabs, but that’s not going to happen,” said Angel Cincotta, owner of Alioto’s and Lazio’s Fishing Co. “For Christmas, you would not see the bottom of the tanks right now. All you would see would be crabs.”

Cincotta said Mother Nature is to blame.

“There’s a seven-year cycle to her,” she said. “Last year was a bumper crop. So instead of getting the normal 12 crabs to 20 crabs per pot, they’re getting four or five.”

The timing, Cincotta said, could not be worse.

“Because it’s Christmas, and that’s when the main demand is,” she said. “A lot of people are going to be disappointed for Christmas this year.”

Emil Wikke is one of those people. He was hoping to buy crab but was turned away.

“We used to have a family tradition to have cioppino on New Year’s Eve, so it was just to come by and check it out,” Wikke said.

Steve Mann, owner of Crabsters, is paying more for the scarce crab he can find. But hasn’t yet passed on the cost to customers.

“We can only support that for so long before we have to pass that on,” Mann said.

Fish markets in San Francisco oftentimes get Dungeness crab from up north to cover shortages, but the season has been delayed in those regions. The supply of Dungeness crab is expected to pick up in mid-January.