Lake Maracaibo

More Than Half of the Picking Plants Around Lake Maracaibo Closed

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The perfect storm, that no one saw coming, is brewing in the crabmeat industry this December. The volume of fresh crab meat from Lake Maracaibo has steadily declined weekly since the season reopened in late October. The sporadic shipments that arrive in Miami each week are so small that the product is rationed out to 5 to 10 cases (20 lb each) per customer.

For a period of several months earlier this year (May through mid-July), you could pick up the phone and easily buy 500 cases of fresh meat anytime you wanted. That is certainly not the case today. More than half of the plants around the lake have stopped operating because they lose less money by closing than by operating on such low volume. Unfortunately, the situation does not look like it will change before the first of the year. There may not be much fresh Venezuelan crab currently, but we have plenty of pasteurized in stock from Indonesia and Mexico.

History tells us that eventually, the crabs will come back, but any Chesapeake Bay waterman will tell you that a blue crab is very difficult to predict. In Maracaibo, October and November are their wettest months, and February is their driest month. In our opinion, the crabs will come back strong enough to get below the pasteurized market price again, sometime before the end of February.