Any creature caught in the wild varies in appearance.
For crab, many that get pulled up in pots have darker, discolored or scarred shells, or they might be adorned with barnacles. While it’s every bit as tasty as prettier product, the uglier crabs fetch lower prices for fishermen.
Alaska crabbers and marketers aim to change that with a new campaign.
“Get ugly. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
Tyson Fick is executive director of the trade group, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.
Ugly shells can comprise up to 30 percent of a catch at certain times of year and during crab molting cycles.
“We are in a cycle of abundance, especially with snow crab, where there is a higher percentage of old shell, dark shell crab that is not as preferred in the marketplace and we are trying to create consumer demand to help with that situation.”
The Get Ugly campaign was launched this week at Boston’s Seafood Expo North America in partnership with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
Fick says they are modeling the campaign after similar image enhancement efforts underway by farmers.
“We’re just taking a page out of the book of what some fruits and vegetable have done that if there is a blemish or something it doesn’t affect the taste of the thing, and with crab it might even be better.”
It’s also about avoiding food waste and improving seafood sustainability efforts.
While the ugly crabs are sometimes discarded, they still count against the annual quotas and crabbers try and avoid them. Fick says boats will pull their gear and move elsewhere to try and find lighter shelled crabs.
“This also ties in to an ongoing conversation with Fish and Game about the harvest strategy where if we can demonstrate that we’re ok with darker shell crab in a percentage and maybe even target it, there might be opportunity to increase the quota on that crab.”
Fick says the Get Ugly campaign has gotten lots of good feedback in Boston. And there may be potential for other Alaska seafood –
“Fish with net marks or a little bit of blush to the skin color on a salmon that is otherwise in great shape — seafood products that have visual imperfections but are still fantastic quality otherwise.”
Alaska crabbers aim to prove one of life’s best truisms – that it’s what’s on the inside that counts.