PWS Tanner crab fishery harvest declines

Harvesters in the 2021 Prince William Sound commissioner’s permit Tanner crab fishery caught 56,352 pounds from 33,803 crab, down considerably from the 108,854 pounds from 64,553 crab delivered from the fishery a year ago.

“We had less participation this year,” said Jan Rumble, groundfish and shellfish area manager for Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “That, and the closure of some areas because of conservation concerns, resulted in a lower harvest.”

The 2021 season opening date was delayed by one day due to inclement weather, subsequently opening on March 2, with a pot limit of 25 pots per vessel. Then the fishery closed by emergency order on March 31. Statistical Area 486005 was closed for the season, due to the harvest and catch per unit effort, or CPUE, declining between the 2018 and 2020 seasons to very low levels, Rumble said.

Seventeen Prince William Sound Tanner crab Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission permit cards were purchased for this year’s fishery, with 13 commissioner’s permits issued and 10 permit holders participating on 10 vessels. Pots were set in 20 statistical areas. The majority of harvest occurred in the Western District, with minimal harvest in five statistical areas in the Eastern District. Statistical areas 485931 and 485935 were closed on March 27 due to declining CPUE to avoid localized depletion, while other areas remained open until March 31.

ADF&G data showed the highest effort and harvest occurred in statistical area 485931 in federal waters on the western boundary of the management area. Eight vessels had 1,862 pot lifts and harvested 45,111 pounds of Tanner crab, which was 80% of the total harvest, an average CPUE of 14.6 crab per pot.

Last year, by comparison, 27 Prince William Sound commercial Tanner crab CFEC permit cards were purchased, 26 commissioner’s permits were issued and 22 permit holders participated on 22 vessels, delivering 108,854 pounds from 64,553 crab in 5,895 pot lifts. The highest effort and harvest occurred in the same statistical area 485931, with 15 vessels harvesting 65,948 pounds of Tanner crab in 2,873 pot lifts.