…While fishing by the crab fleet is closed
Snow crab and red king crab fisheries are off limits to the Alaska crab fleet for the 2022/23 season due to plummeting numbers for both stocks.
But the Seattle-based trawl sector plays by different rules.
Federal regulators and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council perceive bycatch management as presenting a choice in balancing “competing” requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act National Standards.
NOAA and the NPFMC set bycatch limits high in part because they believe that trawl vessels must continue operating year-round even with high bycatch rates because “cost accrual on such large platforms would be unsustainable.”
Federal managers use a confusing mix of poundages and individual crab counts in setting the annual catches/bycatches, reminiscent of the phrase “dollars to donuts” – meaning “certainty or having an assurance about the possibility of something happening.”
For Bristol Bay red king crab (closed to crabbers for the second year) – 26,445 crabs
For snow crab (closed to crabbers for the first time ever) – 3,623,201 crabs
For Bairdi Tanners, the crab fleet can take 2,013,000 crabs. The trawl bycatch take is 2,604,904 Tanners.
The pre-approved trawl bycatch numbers for 2022/2023 are down slightly from the 2021/2022 season.
For last season’s fishery, the trawl bycatch numbers were 5.99 snow crabs (nearly 8 million pounds; the crab fleet harvest was 5.6m pounds)
Red king crab: 80,160 individuals; (the fishery was closed to crabbers)
Snow Crab: 5.99 million individuals
Bairdi Tanner Crab: 3.07 million individuals.