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Crab fisheries open Oct. 15

Winter commercial crab fisheries open Oct. 15 in the Bering Sea, but this winter’s harvest won’t be as strong as last year.The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced about a 40 percent decrease in the allowable snow crab harvest this year. KDLG's Molly Dischner reports.

Audio Transcript:

Snow crab is the largest of the commercial crab fisheries. The model used to gauge the stock had a lot of uncertainty this year in its predictions of how the crab is doing, and the group of state and federal scientists and stakeholders who review the model wrestled with how to use the information. Ultimately, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game set a lower limit to take a more cautious approach.

That’ll affect everyone who fishes for snow crab, including Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., which will see about a 40 percent reduction in its allowable snow crab harvest this year. That fishery doesn’t usually get started until January.

But the Bristol Bay Red King Crab fishery is a relative bright spot, with a total allowable catch of about 9.974 million pounds, similar to last year. BBEDC’s fisheries quota manager Anne Vanderhoeven said they were anticipating that the quota would go down this year.

“Kind of a pleasant surprise when everything gets run through the model and you take into account the different size categories and male-female ratios and old shell crab and all of those pieces that go into the assessment, we ended up with a TAC that’s almost exactly the same as last year.”

BBEDC can catch about 140,000 pounds of Bristol Bay red king crab this year with its community development quota; it’ll have an additional allotment based on its individual fishing quota, but Vanderhoeven says that amount is still being calculated. BBEDC fishes its crab quota on the mariner crab boats that it has an investment interest in.

“The Bristol Bay Red King Crab is the first one that everybody will go out and work on. That fishery is usually fairly short, a couple of weeks, the fleet really tries to get all of that crab in, most of it ends up going to Japan, and there’s a big push to get it processed and over to Japan for the holiday season, when it has the highest value.”

The management area for Bristol Bay red king crab includes a fairly large swath of the Bering Sea.

“It kinda makes a triangle between Dutch Harbor to the south and the Pribilofs to the north then kinda the middle of the Bering Sea there, if you make a third point over in Dillingham. Not anywhere near as close to shore as anybody locally would be able to see that fleet. And then there’s a group that tends to fish down right along the north edge of the Peninsula where some of those crab tend to congregate.”

Tanner crab and St. Matthew’s blue king crab fisheries also open Oct. 15, and fishing usually starts after the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery winds down.