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Commercial harvesters of Bristol Bay red king crab have been given a quota of 6.6 million pounds for the fishery that opens at noon on Oct. 15 – down 22 percent from the 2016-2017 quota.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game also announced on Oct. 3 closures this season of the Pribilof district red and blue king crab and Saint Matthew Island section blue king crab fisheries.
An official announcement is still pending on snow and tanner crab, but Mark Stichert, the state’s regional management coordinator for groundfish and shellfish, said there will be a snow crab fishery and also a tanner crab fishery, the latter in the western Bering Sea. There was no bairdi fishery last year, but there will be one this year, and the TAC on the snow crab fishery will be fairly similar to last year, he said.
The red king crab fishery has been a challenging one, Stichert said.
From 2003 through 2010 the fishery had good production and TACs between 15 million and 20 million pounds, but then they started dropping. “here were generally low population levels through the 1980s. We enjoyed pretty good stability in that fishery for a while, but since 2012-2013 there has been a generally declining trend of overall abundance.”
For the 2014/2015 season, the Bristol Bay red king crab TAC was 9.99 million pounds; in 2015/2016, 9.78 million pounds; and for 2016/2017, 8.47 million pounds.
This year’s TAC of 6.6 million pounds is the lowest TAC going back to 1996.
“These TACS are based on abundance of crab,” Stichert noted. “In the late 1970s there was a regime shift, and populations collapsed from the late 1970s and generally low population levels through the 1980s, and (then) they grew in the early 1990s.”
Beginning in the early 2000s there was another increase in overall abundance that led to TACs of 15 million to 20 million pounds, and then there was a downward trend since that time, he said.
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