Snow crab harvest quota gets big boost

Bering Sea snow crab stocks have rebounded, allowing for the total allowable catch to be set at 27.6 million pounds, up from 18.9 million pounds a year ago and 21.6 million pounds for the 2016/17 season.

That was the best news from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and National Marine Fisheries Service in announcements of total allowable catch for the 2018/19 shellfish fisheries in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands.

Individual fishing quota permit holders for snow crab are allocated 24.8 million pounds of that total.

The community development quota is 2.758 million pounds.

Bristol Bay red king crab have not fared as well.

Their TAC has slipped this year to 4.3 million pounds, including 3,877,200 pounds for IFQ permit holders and 430,800 pounds for the community development quota sector. That’s down from a TAC of 6.6 million pounds of red king crab in 2017 and 8.4 million pounds in 2016.

According to Miranda Westphal, ADF&G area management biologist at Dutch Harbor, the last time the Bristol Bay red king crab harvest limit was so low was in 1985, when under the old system the guideline harvest limit was 3 million to 5 million pounds, and fishermen landed 4.09 million pounds.

“We’ve got a continued downward trajectory for king crab stocks and we don’t see a lot of recruitment coming in,” she said. “The abundance survey is showing a continued decline for effective spawning biomass of legal males, females and sub-legals and we have low estimated recruitment, so we don’t see a lot of small juveniles coming into the system.”

Fishing in the western district for Tanner crab will open with a TAC of 2,439,000 pounds, down from 2,500,200 pounds in 2017. The eastern district for Tanner crab remains closed.

Pribilof district red and blue king crab are also closed due to continued low abundance, and state biologists said there is considerable uncertainty about abundance estimates of that crab.

The Saint Matthew Island blue king crab season is also closed because stocks were estimated to be below the federal minimum stock size threshold and consequently declared overfished.