Bristol Bay red king crab quota set at 6.6 million pounds

Commercial harvesters of Bristol Bay red king have been given a total allowable catch of 6.6 million pounds for the fishing season slated to begin Oct. 15, with 5.94 million pounds apportioned to those with individual fishing quota and 660,100 pounds for community development entity quota.

The announcement on Oct. 3 came from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which also announced that the Pribilof District red and blue king crab fisheries, and Saint Matthew Island section blue king crab fisheries would remain closed this season.

That’s down 22 percent from the 2016/17 quota of 8.469 million pounds, which was a 1.5 million pound reduction from the 2015/16 season. The 2017/2018 TAC is the lowest TAC going back to 1996.

Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at Dutch Harbor said Bristol Bay red king crab mature female abundance is over the harvest strategy threshold of 8.4 million crab and that the 2017 effective spawning biomass of 39.78 million pounds came in over the threshold of 14.5 million pounds required for a fishery opening.

The 2017 effective spawning biomass estimate is less than 55.0 million pounds, but greater than 34.75 million pounds, allowing for a 12.5 percent exploitation rate to be applied to the estimated mature male abundance of 7.82 million crab.

An announcement on commercial tanner and snow crab fisheries was still pending, but Mark Stichert, regional management coordinator for groundfish and shellfish for ADF&G at Kodiak, said there will be a snow crab fishery and a tanner crab fishery this year, the latter in the western Bering Sea.

“We didn’t have a bairdi fishery last year, but will have one this year, and the snow crab TAC will be fairly similar to last year,” he said.

To determine the total allowable catch for the crab fisheries, biologists begin with a summer trawl survey, which is fed into a stock assessment model, which provides the estimated abundance, and that model is then reviewed heavily by state and federal biologists. Once those estimates are generated, the state applies the estimates to a harvest strategy, he said. Last year’s harvest had one of the highest catch per unit effort, he said.