Fisheries managers announce crab quotas, season closures

Snow crab is unloaded from the F/V Polar Sea at the Port of Dutch Harbor in 2017. (Photo by Laura Kraegel/KUCB)

With the fishing season starting next week, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has released crab quotas for Bristol Bay and the Bering Sea.

The total allowable catch for red king crab is 3.8 million pounds. That’s about 12 percent less than last season, which was already the lowest since 1996.

Meanwhile, the tanner crab season has been closed entirely due to below-threshold estimates of mature males.

Managers have also canceled the St. Matthew Island blue king crab fishery, which has been declared “overfished,” and continued the longtime closures for Pribilof Island red and blue king crab, which have fallen below federal minimums for two decades.

This season, snow crab is the only species to see a quota increase. Fishermen are allowed to catch 34 million pounds, which is about 24 percent more than last winter.

While opilio is up, biologists have said many crab populations are declining as a result of hard-to-pinpoint environmental factors, including warming water temperatures and bycatch issues.

“It’s hard to determine exactly what the trigger — or combination of triggers — is,” said Miranda Westphal of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, speaking about red king crab in October of 2018. “We believe it’s probably a combination of environmental factors.”

Department officials will review this season’s stock assessments and fishing quotas at a public meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 9. It starts at 9 a.m. at Unalaska City Hall. You can also join by teleconference at 1-800-315-6338, using access code 4861842.

Crab fishing opens next Tuesday, Oct. 15 at noon.

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Laura Kraegel covers Unalaska and the Aleutian Islands for KUCB . Originally from Chicago, she first came to Alaska to work at KNOM, reporting on Nome and the Bering Strait Region. ( / 907.581.6700)