Alaska cancels Bering Sea king and snow crab seasons over worries of population collapse

 

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laska officials have canceled the fall Bristol Bay red king crab harvest, and in a first-ever move also scuttled the winter harvest of smaller snow crab.

The move is a double whammy to a fleet from Alaska, Washington and Oregon pursuing Bering Sea crab in harvests that as recently as 2016 grossed $280 million.

“I am struggling for words. This is so unbelievable that this is happening,” said Jamie Goen, executive director of the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers. “We have third-generation fishermen who are going to go out of business.”

The closures reflect conservation concerns about both crab species in the aftermath of bleak summer population surveys. The tough decisions to shut down the snow crab and fall king crab harvests came after days of discussions by Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists and senior agency officials who faced crabbers’ pleas for at least small fisheries.

“Management of Bering Sea snow crab must now focus on conservation and rebuilding given the conditions of the stock,” the department said in a Monday statement announcing the snow crab cancellation.

Snow crab populations collapsed in the aftermath of a 2019 Bering Sea warming that scrambled the broader marine ecosystem, and last year’s snow crab harvest of 5.6 million pounds was the smallest in more than 40 years.

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