The season’s last delivery of snow crab is expected any day, wrapping up the 2017/2018 Bering Sea crab season until the fall.
It was a mixed bag for snow crab, or opilio, which had a 19.5 million pound catch quota. Fishing was scratchy and tough going for most, while some got on the crab and filled up fast.
“It was a little tougher for snow crab. Weather wasn’t good. There were a few boats that lost windows”
Jake Jacobsen is director of the Inter-cooperative Exchange, which negotiates prices for the bulk of the 50 to 60 boat fleet.
For bairdi, it was usually across the board no problem – they caught the crab easily. There seemed to be a lot of crab around. For king crab, most of the guys didn’t have any problem at all and they reported recruitment and it looked like it was a pretty good fishery. “
The harvest limit for red king crab this season was just 6.6 million pounds, and 2.5 million pounds for bairdi Tanners.
Price talks for snow crab and Tanners are just getting underway, but he says the outlook is good.
“Prices are great – for opilio we will probably get the second highest price ever received. Our king crab price will be right up there, and certainly our bairdi price will be good. We can’t complain too much about the prices.”
The highest Alaska snow crab price ever was $4.98 a pound in 2011. For Bristol Bay red king crab, the topper was last year’s $10.89 a pound.
Attention turns now to the next crab season which starts in mid-October. At a time of declining crab stocks, the outcome will hinge upon results of the summer stock surveys.
“If you go by last year’s survey there is certainly a strong possibility of further quota reductions. So we’re hoping for improvement in this year’s survey and some uptick in the stocks that I don’t think anyone is overly optimistic about.”
Jacobsen says crabbers are working with fishery managers to assess northward migrations of the Bering Sea crab stocks in a warming ocean, and to allow for a larger Tanner harvest.