The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) announced that Alaska’s Bering Sea’s Snow Crab Season is canceled for 2022-23 in a notice on the 10th of October. Doug Vincent-Lang, the commissioner of the ADF&G, wrote how the department (ADF&G) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently completed the analysis of the 2022 NMFS trawl survey for Bering Sea Snow Crab. The analysis suggests that the stock is estimated to be lesser than what it takes to open a fishery i.e. below the ADF&G regulatory threshold. Thus, the Bering Sea snow crab will be closed for the 2022-23 season.
Furthermore, they added how ADF&G appreciated and considered every possible outcome of analyzing inputs from crab industry stakeholders before coming to this decision. Moreover, they understand the substantial impact of the crab fishery on harvesters, communities and industry, and thus, ADF&G must balance these with the need for long-term conservation and sustainability of crab stocks. The notice further mentioned how the management of the Bering Sea should focus on the conservation and rebuilding of the stock.
They even mentioned how scientific advancements and understanding of the crab population are under work, and with the crab industry input, ADF&G will continue to assess the options for rebuilding- which includes a potential effort in potential sustainable fishing during low abundance periods. The aforementioned step would allow ADF&G to work on issues related to state and federal co-management, observer coverage, discard mortality and fishery viability.
As per the annual survey of the Bering Sea floor executed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says that crustaceans’ population fell to nearly 1.9 billion in 2022, compared to 11.7 billion in 2018. According to NOAA data, last year Alaska’s snow crab catch was around 44 million pounds i.e. $219 million. Lastly, a few more details will be announced during the ADF&G/ crab industry annual meeting.
The trade group for the sector, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, put the amount of direct financial losses at roughly $500 million. That estimate increases to roughly $1 billion when the repercussions on the economy are taken into account. According to Jamie Goen, the executive director of ABSC, both the sadness surrounding this closure and the fleet members’ frustration with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s prior inaction on crab protection have been expressed.