Fish Radio
Crabbers stunned by catch outlooks
September 2, 2016

Bairdi Tanners are snow crab's larger cousin

Bairdi Tanners are snow crab’s larger cousin

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch. Bad news for Bering Sea crabbers. More after this —

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Bering Sea crabbers were stunned this week when the outlooks for this season’s fisheries were revealed.

I don’t think anybody was expecting the numbers to be as low as they ended up being. That was a bit of a shock.

Ruth Cristiansen is science adviser and policy analyst for the trade group, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.

Annual summer surveys (crab map) showed that numbers of mature  male and females dropped sharply across the board for the big three:  opilio, or snow crab, bairdi Tanners, and red king crab. Scientists will crunch the data for weeks. But there is no question that catches will be down.

Managers use different criteria for setting quotas for the three crab species. For snow crab, the state can choose from what seems the most reliable of three data sets.   Christiansen says the snow crab fishery will likely open but come in below last season’s 40 million pounds.

I believe there will be a n opilio fishery. I’m not worried about that one not opening. I do think that given the information we have and the state’s tendency to be cautious the TAC will be lower than it was last year.  

   The harvest strategy for bairdi Tanner crab is based on a threshold of mature females. Surveys showed those numbers females dropped by nearly 60 percent from just a year ago. The crabbers believe the bairdi are still out there – they’ve just moved to a different spot.

It’s not one of those things we don’t think the crab is there, it’s a result of the survey not being able to find them.  

Bairdi was a 20 million pound fishery last season and the fleet has logged good catches for the past few years. Christiansen points out that 2016 is one of the hottest on record for Bering Sea water temperatures, both at the sea surface and on the bottom.

The reason I say we know the crab are there is because CPUE’s have been pretty good for the last several years especially for bairdi. And the dramatic drop that we’ve seen from last year to this year in observer numbers – it’s not an overfishing issue or fishing mortality or natural mortality. Something else is going on.  

The outlook for red king crab is a big brighter.  Total numbers were down, but managers use a different strategy set catches.

But red king crab, because that harvest strategy for the state is based on spawning biomass, and that’s a combination of the males and females, we don’t anticipate or expect and even though one went up and one went down, the balance is the same. So we are not anticipating that TAC to change dramatically.  

  The red king crab quota last season was about 10 million pounds. The state will reveal the Bering Sea crab quotas in early October. The fisheries open on October 15.

 Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch