Alaska crab news is discouraging for all but Bering Sea snow crab.
Members of the North Pacific Council’s crab plan team revealed results of annual summer surveys at a meeting last week in Seattle.
Weeks earlier crabbers were told there would be a red king crab fishery at Bristol Bay but likely less than last season’s 4.3 million pound catch. Jake Jacobsen is director of the Inter-cooperative Exchange.
“We’ve been told that we will have a Bering Sea red king crab season. We don’t know what the TAC will be yet but we understand that it will be reduced from last year but we will have a season. We really appreciate the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game giving us a heads up on that.”
Only mature male crabs can be retained for sale in any of Alaska’s crab fisheries.
A fishery for bairdi Tanner crab is likely on the fence as numbers for mature males were way down. Last season’s Tanner catch was just 2.4 million pounds
For Bering Sea snow crab, mature males appear to be increasing but not as much as expected after last year saw one of the largest snow crab recruitments biologists had ever seen. Conversely, numbers of both immature male and female snow crab declined. Last season’s snow crab harvest was 27.5 million pounds, a 47 percent increase from the previous year.
The Bering Sea crab harvests will be announced in a few weeks; the fisheries open October 15.
Meanwhile, back in state waters, the red king crab fishery at Southeast Alaska has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to low numbers.
The 2017 fishery, after a six year closure, produced just 120,000 pounds and Southeast managers said crab numbers continue to decline.
At Norton Sound, poor ice all winter resulted in the poorest red king crab catch in over 10 years and one third of the 96 pots dropped were lost due to moving ice.
The summer harvest of 75,032 pounds (24,913 crab) was the worst in 20 years.
Nome crabbers also reported that new thieves – cod and pollock – are robbing the bait from their pots.
We’ll know soon if Kodiak will see a Tanner crab fishery in January.