Bering Sea crabbers will drop pots for king crab, snow crab and bairdi Tanners when the fisheries get underway on October 15. The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game announced the catch quotas late Friday.
As expected, the catch was reduced for red king crab taken in the eastern Bering Sea waters of Bristol Bay – just 2.648 million pounds is a 30 percent drop from the 3.8 million pounds taken last season.
“We’ve heard from scientists in the past that there has not been good recruitment into that fishery for over a decade.”
Jamie Goen is executive director of the trade group Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, which represents harvesters.
And for the first time since 2018 there will be a Bairdi Tanner crab opener in the western fishing district; the eastern region will remain closed. A catch of 2.338 million pounds of Tanners can be taken this season.
As expected, the catch for snow crab, bairdi Tanner’s smaller cousin, was increased but not as much as was hoped. The annual stock survey was cancelled this summer due to Covid-concerns and crabbers feared it would result in more conservative quotas.
Managers set the snow crab quota at 45 million pounds, a 32 percent increase from last season’s take of 34 million pounds.
Signs point to a strong market for snow crab, predicts market expert John Sackton, founder of SeafoodNews.com. The crab has been one of the top selling seafood items all year and Sackton said “snow crab is currently oversold, and back up to record price levels.”
He credits the crab’s popularity to several things: 16 years of non-stop exposure from the popular “Deadliest Catch” tv show, the fact that snow crab is precooked and ready to eat, and a waning Japanese market that has provided more snow crab to the U.S. market. The market also is expanding to China and more European countries.
Sackton said snow crab from Canada, the largest producer, already is oversold and orders are now being filled by crab from Russia. There is little snow crab available and buyers are scrambling to cover their sales.
That means customers will now have the option to buy more snow crab from Alaska until Canada reopens in April.