Federal fisheries managers are expected to make a decision, possibly by mid-January, on a request from Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers (ABSC) to close the Red King Crab Savings Area and Subarea to all fishing gear that comes in contact with the ocean bottom.
Public comment on the issue is due to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) by Dec. 5. Bristol Bay red king crab and snow crab issues are coming before the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) again at its Dec. 8-14 meeting in Anchorage.
NMFS officials said they are working with the management council and will also consider public comments from the council’s December meeting.
Agenda items include a review of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s conservation work plan and an initial review of the snow crab rebuilding plan, plus the emergency request for the Red King Crab Savings Area closure from ABSC.
The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery has been closed for a second consecutive year due to low abundance, and the Bering Sea snow crab fishery is closed for the first time for the same reason.
Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy are separately seeking federal financial aid for the multi-million-dollar crab industry.
Peltola has asked Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro to consider appropriating $250 million in disaster relief funding for all those economically impacted by the red king crab and snow crab closures.
Dunleavy, meanwhile, has asked Commerce Secretary Gina Railmondo to declare a federal fishery disaster determination.
Comments on the proposed crab habitat closure may be transmitted electronically via the federal e-ruling making portal at https://www.regulations.gov or mailed to Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668.