Bering Sea crabbers got good and bad news for the upcoming season. As expected there will be an opener for Bristol Bay red king crab with a reduced catch. Fishery managers announced a total harvest of just under 3.8 million pounds of mature male crabs, the only ones that can be retained for sale – a drop of half a million pounds from 2018..
Also as expected – the snow crab total catch was increased to nearly 34 million pounds, a 24 percent boost over last season. People had hoped for more after surveys last year showed one of the biggest crab recruitments ever. Researchers said this year showed a smaller increase in mature males along with declines of juvenile crab and all ages of females.
There will be no fishery for bairdi Tanners, snow crab’s larger cousin. A catch of 2.4 million pounds was allowed last year but surveys showed not enough crab to meet a threshold for an opener in both fishing districts. Crabbers say that’s not what they see in their pots they believe the Tanners have moved beyond traditional survey areas.
“It’s really hard to guess from one year to the next on the surveys. It might show something one year and you can’t find them the next.”
Jake Jacobsen is director of the Inter-cooperative Exchange which represents more than 75 percent of the crab fleet of about 85 boats.
Likewise, closures will remain for blue king crab at St. Matthew Island, and for blue and red king crab at the Pribilof Islands where the stocks remain depleted.
Bering Sea snow crab and king crab fisheries open October 15.
Red king crab closes in mid-January but it’s usually wrapped up in late November for year end markets.
Snow crab remains open until May 15.