Fish Radio

Crab Map provides stock status, clues to Bering Sea catches

September 15, 2015                King crab habitats

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Clues to upcoming Bering Sea crab fisheries. I’ll tell you more after this –

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Catches for Alaska’s premier crab fisheries in the Bering Sea could take a dip this year based on results from the summer surveys. The annual report by NOAA Fisheries – dubbed the  ‘crab map’ –  shows tables reflecting big drops in abundance of  legal sized males for both snow crab and  red king crab at Bristol Bay over the past year.  Only legal males are allowed to be retained for sale. On the bright side, both stocks appear to have strong numbers of younger crab set to recruit into the fisheries.

The crab surveys – done since the 1970s – are done using trawl nets during June and July each year, covering a span of 140,000 nautical square miles.

The data show that for red king crab,   99 percent of the females observed had full egg clutches – and encouraging sign of high mating success.   The harvest last season for Bristol Bay red king crab was 10 million pounds, a 16 percent increase from 2013.

For snow crab, the numbers were down substantially from last year, but a three year pulse of juveniles gives hope for strong numbers coming into the crab fishery. The catch for snow crab last season was 61 million pounds, a 25 percent increase.

Last season’s biggest surprise was a whopping 15 million pound Tanner crab catch, the largest in 20 years. Bairdi Tanners are the larger cousin of snow crab.  The summer survey showed levels of male Tanner crabs continued to increase.

The report also gives status reports at the Pribilofs, St. Matt’s and more – along with charts of their distribution – thus, the crab map moniker.

Alaska’s Crab Plan Team is meeting this week in Seattle to discuss and plan for the Bering Sea crab fisheries which open on October 15.  The catch quotas will be released in a few weeks.

Find links to the Crab Map and more at

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, serving Alaska’s fishing communities since 1910. On the web at  – In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.