From by Michael Ramsingh

October 6, 2016/             crab

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the closure to the Bering Sea’s bairdi crab fishery for the 2016/17 season because of low stock abundance. A decision is still pending for what the state will do about the opilio or snow crab season, which is scheduled to start on October 15.

The closure is not much of a surprise at this point since evidence of a subpar female bairdi crab biomass was first reported at the end of August. Summer survey results found the 8.067 million pound mature female stock was below the minimum regulatory threshold of 9.832 million pounds necessary for a fishery opening.

Alaska’s crabbers will now have to wait two years for the commercial bairdi fishery to reopen. Management protocols require that the stock meet minimum biomass thresholds for two consecutive years before the fishery can be reopened.

This means both next year’s survey and the 2018 survey would need to surpass that threshold before ADF&G could consider opening the fishery, which targets male crab only.

“Once it reaches that threshold, the TAC is automatically reduced by half. If our petition is denied, that’s what we’re looking at in the 2018-19 season, best case scenario,” said Ruth Christianson, Science Advisor for the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.

The Alaskan Crabbers filed an emergency petition in September asking the Alaska Board of Fish to reconsider their harvest policy for tanner crab. However, it is a rare event that such petitions are taken up and given the Bering Sea closure announcement, this was no different.

Meanwhile, Alaska also closed the red and blue king crab fishery in the Pribilof District also because of low abundance. The blue king crab fishery for the Saint Matthew Island Section will remain closed for lack of biomass.

Alaska’s opilio or snow crab season is now the last commercial crab fishery announcement pending release before the season starts on October 15. Here again, summer survey results were not positive for the fishery. Last season, Bering Sea snow crabbers were dealt a 40 percent cut to the catch.

At the very least Alaska’s snow crab fishery is expected to open under a reduced quota. It is also a very real possibility that the fishery is closed outright.