Fish Radio
Crabbers head out to bleak fisheries, still hope for Tanner opener
October 14, 2016

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Crabbers head out for a bleak season and hope for a Tanner turn around – More after this –

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Snow crab in the Bering Sea Credit: csmphotos.com

Snow crab in the Bering Sea
Credit: csmphotos.com

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Bering Sea crabbers head out Saturday for a bleak season, with catch quotas slashed and no fishing at all for bairdi Tanners.

It’s going to be a tough year economically. We’ll likely see record prices for our crab bu the quantity is so low it won’t make up for the low quotas.

Jake Jacobsen is director of the Inter-cooperative Exchange, which represents 75 percent of the 90 boat fleet.

For Bristol Bay red king crab, the quota of eight million pounds is down 15 percent, snow crab was slashed by nearly half to 21 million pounds.

And the bairdi Tanner crab fishery, which for several years has been on an upward tick and produced 20 million pounds last year, is shut down due to low showings of female crabs during the summer surveys.

That’s a huge disappointment, Jacobsen says, because the Tanners were taking off  at restaurant and grocery chains.

Our main effort was to differentiate bairdi from opilio and to educate the market that it wasn’t just a big snow crab. It is a distinct crab with a very unique flavor profile. The taste is preferable among Bering Sea fishermen anyway over any other crab they catch.

When the Tanner crab came back on the market four years ago after being closed for rebuilding, it gained popularity and last year fetched a better poundage price than snow crab at $2.97 and $2.73, respectively.

We saw the price differential increase and bairdi becoming a premium product in the marketplace and our efforts were really paying off in that regard. So it’s a huge set back not to have some bairdi available. 

Customers will still clamor for Alaska crab, says Tyson Fick of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

The  demand certainly won’t go away, it’s one of the most highly sought after seafood products in the world speaking of all the crab species that come from Alaska. Anytime you see big reductions in the quota and conservative management to shut down the fisheries, it hurts at the time and reflects the sustainable management that our whole program is built on.

Meanwhile, the crabbers believe the Tanners are out there, but they moved from the standard summer survey areas. They are still pushing for a Tanner opener in one district.

Biologically there should’ve been a season in the western district and there is a slim possibility that we will see a fishery at some point in time this  year. But I don’t know what the likelihood of that is. 

The crabbers could know by next week.

At its work session,   the Board of Fisheries may  discuss the petition next week at their annual work session, and they have a number of options, said Mark Stichert, regional supervisor at ADF&G in Kodiak.

“They can  deny the request and support the season closure;   call for an analysis and make a determination on their own timeline; or  transition the petition into a board generated proposal and take it up at one of their meetings already scheduled for this cycle.  Options 2 and 3 could still result in a fishery this year if that is the desire of the BOF.  We should know what they plan to do by this time next week.”

The Bering Sea crab fisheries last season were valued at nearly $245 million at the docks.

You can track the crab catches at our website – www.alaskafishradio.com  And check out the line up next month at Pacific Marine Expo – www.pacificmarineexpo.com

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. (www.oceanbeauty.com) In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.

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