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Crab Fishing Resumes in the Bering Sea

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Several crab fisheries in the Bering Sea are open as federal regulators were successful in getting fishermen their IFQ permits so they can drop pots. The end of the federal government shutdown on Thursday proved very timely for crab fishermen who were unable during the shutdown to get their IFQ permits. U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski issued a statement Friday thanking the National Marine Fisheries Service for processing and faxing out all the permits needed on Thursday. Murkowski confirms that all the fishermen and processors had their permits in hand by the close of business Thursday. The effort to get the crab fishing fleets back on the water also drew praise from U.S. Senators Mark Begich from Alaska and Maria Cantwell from Washington State who note that 80-vessels in the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery employ about 500 fishermen. Cantwell stresses that about 50 of the vessels are home-ported in Seattle. Several crab fisheries are currently open including the Bristol Bay red king crab, Bristol Bay tanner crab, and the Bering Sea snow crab fisheries. The TAC for the red king crab fishery is 8.6-million pounds, which is up over 9-percent compared to the 2012 TAC. The tanner crab TAC is 3.1-million pounds. The fishery is open this year after being closed last year. The TAC for the Bering Sea snow crab fishery is nearly 54-million pounds. That’s down 19-percent compared to last year. The Aleutian Islands golden king crab fishery has been open since August 15th. The TAC for that fishery is 6.29-million pounds. The Norton Sound red king crab fishery closed in mid-September with a total harvest of over 391.8-thousand pounds. Over 337-thousand pounds of that harvest was taken by 32 Norton Sound area fishermen who sold the crab to a subsidiary of the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation. The subsidiary is called Norton Sound Seafood Products and it’s located in Nome. The fishermen were apparently paid in excess of $1.84-million dollars for their harvest with a base price of $5.50 a pound for crab delivered to the plant in Nome. Crab delivered to a tender fetched a price of $5.25. While several crab fisheries are open there are some closures in place. Earlier this month the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an order noting that the Saint Matthew Island Section blue king crab fishery will be closed for the 2013-2014. That’s because the latest biomass estimate of 4.5-million pounds is the lowest estimate since 2005. In a statement issued earlier this month the Alaska Department of Fish and Game observed that the recent area-swept estimates show a steep decline in Saint Matthew blue king crab abundance, similar to the late 1990’s when the stock was declared overfished. That resulted in a 10-year closure. Fish and Game also confirms that the Pribilof District red and blue king crab fisheries will be closed for the 2013-2014 season. ADF&G notes that the survey results indicate continued low abundance of the blue king crab stock that is well below the minimum threshold to allow a fishery. Fish and Game suggests the abundance estimates for mature and legal size male red king crab in the Pribilof District are up from last year but due to high uncertainty surrounding the red king crab abundance estimate and the high potential for blue king crab bycatch mortality the Pribilof District red king crab fishery will remain closed.