Fish Radio
Red king crab wraps; Tanners take off
November 18, 2014

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – It’s a wrap for red king crab, and Bering Sea Tanners take off. More after this —


Barnacle crusted king crab Credit:

Barnacle crusted king crab

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It took crabbers just four weeks to haul up the 9 million pound quota of red king crab in the Bristol Bay fishery.  Fish managers posted the catch at 100% as of yesterday.   The fishery was for the most part uneventful and the fleet was able to dodge some knarly weather.  The biggest crab concern came from an unexpected source –

We did have a scare with a lot of barnacles in the beginning of the season and a lot of sorting through the crab at sea. But the fishermen moved off those right away and then that scare went away. 2

 Heather Fitch is area manager at Fish and Game in Dutch Harbor.  Pots averaged 28 crab which Fitch called ‘pretty decent’ for the fishery.  She called the numbers of heavily barnacled red king crab unusual.

Typically, the fishery sees pretty clean shelled crab, so we’re not sure. We need to look at the data – was it just some sort of barnacle event that happened or were they older shelled population. We don’t know which it was. 4

It’s likely  nothing to worry about, says Bob Foy, director of the NOAA crab lab at Kodiak. More of the crusty crabs have been showing up in annual surveys for the past two years.


There is probably just a higher proportion of older shell crab. These are crab that are older and probably not molting every year and the fishery just happened to be  working an area where they were aggregated.

Crabs with barnacle-encrusted shells fetch a lower price because they are less appealing to customers. It also forces more sorting and handling on deck, which crabbers try to minimize to prevent harming the animals.

Heather Fitch says a fleet of 63 boats fished for red king crab which is the standard for several years. Already half have switched to Tanner crab.  That Bering Sea fishery took everyone by surprise when the catch was boosted to 15 million pounds, up from 1.5 million last season.

 Normally,   when red king crab is over a few boats switch over to Tanner crab. This year we’ve got 33 vessels that switched over to the Eastern Bering Sea Tanner crab. That’s quite a few more boats than we’ve seen in the last number of years. 9

 Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, an Alaska corporation proudly supporting Alaska’s coastal communities and the Alaskans who depend on fishing for their livelihoods and culture.    In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.