Dungeness crab fishing in Alaska Credit: chinookshores.com
Crabbers at Southeast Alaska and Kodiak are pulling up good Dungeness catches although prices have sunk. At the Panhandle, a fleet of 192 permit holders hauled up nearly six million pounds of dungies during the summer fishery that ran from June through August 15, one of the highest catches of the decade.
The average price to fishermen of $1.67 per pound was down from $3.01 last year – still, the summer Dungeness fishery was valued at nearly $10 million at the Southeast docks.
The crab, which average about two pounds, were big and full, said Adam Messmer, regional crab manager for the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game at Douglas. The Dungeness fishery will reopen on October 1 and expects more boats might be out on the grounds -.
“Yeah, our effort usually stays the same. We do see it fluctuate when we have poor salmon years for gillnetters and a lot of those guys own both permits. So with the poor salmon year, we might see a little bit of an uptick in the number of permits out there for the fall.”
With the closure of the ADF&G office in Wrangell where many crabbers reside, Messmer advised they need to register right away at the Petersburg office.
“We have to register fishermen and provide replacement buoy tags and such and if any fishermen in Wrangell need that they should contact Tessa Bergman and Joe Stratman in Petersburg, to get on top of that before the last week before the fishery. Plan ahead sooner rather than later because it’s kind of a new thing we’re dealing with.”
At Kodiak, crabbers have about six weeks left to go in a Dungeness fishery that’s been open since May.
A fleet of 25 boats are at the two million pound dungy mark throughout the westward region. It’s the biggest catch in 30 years, says Nat Nichols, area shellfish manager for ADF&G at Kodiak.
“And we’re seeing similar good production through the Alaska Peninsula and Sand Point area where they are at 810,000 pounds so far. That’s more than in any recent season.”
Westward fisherman also reportedly are fetching well below $2 a pound. Nichols cautions that the higher catches are due in part to “more horsepower on the grounds” as opposed to a higher abundance of crab. The stocks are very cyclical, he says, and the current dungie cohort could be the tail end of a peak.
“We’ve got 50 to 60 years of history to look at and in the past these peaks and harvest have lasted three years, something like that, and then we kind of go down until we get another big group of crab coming through. So, this could be that we’re kind of coming to the end of this peak. But next year will tell that story.”
Nichols says there does not appear to be many small Dungeness crab coming up behind the current crop.
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