The catch for snow crab – Alaska’s largest Bering Sea crab fishery – has been slashed to just 5.6 million pounds for the upcoming season, down 88% from the previous harvest of 45 million pounds.
Just three years ago, managers were touting a huge snow crab cohort poised to enter the fishery. But this summer’s survey showed the crabs had practically disappeared. Scientists blame predation by cod, disease and a warming sea bottom that’s pushed the snow crab to deeper waters further west. They say evidence points to a downturn in population and not just a migration out of the survey zone.
The red king crab fishery at Bristol Bay is cancelled for the first time in 25 years.
The closures and cutbacks will be a big financial hit to crabbers, mostly non-Alaskans, who in recent years have grossed over $200 million from those two fisheries.
Most recent federal data show that for red king crab, 72% of landed revenues and 64% for snow crab go to people who live out of Alaska. (Tables below)
A small Bering Sea Tanner crab fishery of 1.1 million pounds was ok’d in the Western district. That’s down one million from last season.
The Bering Sea fisheries open on October 15.
Golden king crab fished way out along the Aleutian Islands is now Alaska’s largest Bering Sea crab fishery. That fleet of four boats has been on the water since August with a catch of about 6 million pounds.
Overall, Southeast Alaska’s Dungeness crab fishery ranks as the state’s top crab producer for poundage: the 2020/21 fishery totaled 6.7 million pounds!
Alaska’s crab shortfall will be made up by imports from Russia.
So far this year, the U.S. has purchased over 14 million pounds of red king crab valued at nearly $282 million and 26 million pounds of snow crab at a cost of over $294 million.
Price tracker Urner Barry reports that Russian frozen snow crab leg clusters were fetching up to $16.70 per pound for smaller sizes and over $18.60 for larger sizes, increases of 40-45% and 19 to 24%, respectively, since April. Russia has not purchased a single pound of any Alaska seafood since 2014.
The U.S. also so far this year has paid over $1 billion to purchase more than 83.5 million pounds of snow crab from Eastern Canada.