Bering Sea crabbers are getting a first glimpse at how their upcoming fisheries may or may not pan out. 

At a three day meeting this week in Seattle managers and stakeholders are reviewing results of the summer trawl surveys for snow crab, bairdi Tanners and red king crab at Bristol Bay.

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Overall, the slow growing stocks appear to still be on a decline, but there are some encouraging signs. Crabbers have their fingers crossed, says Tyson Fick, director of the group Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.

“You have to look at these over multiple years. We’re hopeful we’ll see an increase in quotas over the course of several years. It’s a fluid thing out there. The combination of environmental factors and other species eating the crab – we know there’s lots of groundfish out there that love to eat little baby crabs. So hopefully what we’ve seen in the survey this year, that trend continues and we see a little bump in populations in future years that will allow for a little greater harvest.

For snow crab, the numbers increased for all but mature males, the only crabs allowed to be retained. Those numbers were the lowest on record – but the abundance of young snow crab recruits was the highest since 1995. Numbers of mature and young female snow crabs also showed big increases.

Chances look hopeful that there will be a snow crab fishery, similar to or smaller than last season’s 21.5 million pounds.

For bairdi Tanners, snow crab’s bigger cousin, the number of mature males dropped in both eastern and western fishing districts.

But – the numbers of  females, which drive the catch limits, increased by a lot in both regions. Young male Tanners also are on an upswing.

The Tanner crab fishery was called off last year, following a 20 million pound catch the year before.  An opener this season is still anyone’s guess.

Likewise, a red king crab fishery at Bristol Bay is also an unknown.

The survey showed the number of legal males at the lowest point in five years.  But young male crabs showed a 10 percent hike and young females doubled, boding well for the future. Red king crab landings last year were less than 8 million pounds.

Catches for the Bering Sea crab fisheries will be announced by Fish and Game in a few weeks.

The fisheries begin on October 15.

 

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