Crabbers have a plan to rebuild Bering Sea stocks

Over-emphasis on climate change distracts from near-term actions to save the crab and the fleet, ABSC says.

by | October 16, 2023

“Current management approach includes devastating fishery closures, over emphasis on climate change.

Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, the trade association that advocates for crab harvesters, has created a fishery action plan as a roadmap for managers, scientists, and industry to build resilience in this fishery.

Meanwhile, NPFMC takes no action on protecting crab resources; raises trawl bycatch limits for 2024/25

“It is unprecedented. We’ve never seen the abundance (of snow crab) this low. We’ve never seen a decline as great as what we saw from 2018 to 2021. And we just continue to see those small animals dying out of the population without being replaced.”

mike litzow, lead shellfish scientist at noaa/kodiak, speaking this month to the npfmc.

“The prospects are shaky. The big picture for Bristol Bay red king crab is we continue to see poor recruitment year after year after year for more than a decade now. And without young crab coming into the stock, both males and females are at a historically low point, and we’re going to expect that will continue until we do see a substantial recruitment event.”

mike litzow at npfmc – validating that the council has done nothing to protect crab for over a decade

“The crab bycatch limits for other fishing fleets continue to be troubling while crab stocks are at low levels. It highlights the inequities the Council is endorsing by putting priority on bycatch fisheries instead of directed fisheries. For snow crab, the directed fishery is closed this year and yet bycatch fisheries are allowed up to 4.35 million animals, equivalent to approximately 2 million pounds. Further, the crab bycatch limits are set too high to change fishing behavior and create an incentive to avoid crab.”


NPFMC recommends higher trawl crab bycatch across the board for 2024/25

Even prior to hearing Litzow’s presentation at its October meeting, the NPFMC released its recommended crab bycatch allowances for 2024 and 2025.

For red king crab, the allowable bycatch is 97,000 animals, up from 26,445 crabs for 2022 and 2023.

For snow crab, the allowable bycatch for each of the next two years is 4,350,000 animals, up from 3,623,201 crabs for the past two years.

For bairdi Tanner crab, the proposed bycatch in two fishing districts is 3,950,000 individual crabs, up from 2,604,904 crabs in 2022 and 2023.

Bycatch not considered in 10 year snow crab rebuilding plan

When the Bering Sea snow crab fishery was closed in 2022, the NPFMC was required to create a 10 year rebuilding plan for Bering Sea snow crab to comply with federal fisheries laws. The plan had to be in place prior to the start of the 2023/2024 fishing season for groundfish in Alaska waters.

According to the initial environmental assessment of the Rebuilding Plan for Eastern Bering Sea Snow Crab released on November 10, 2022: 

 “No measures to modify Eastern Bering Sea snow crab bycatch management in the groundfish fisheries are included in this rebuilding analysis.”
“Any restrictions on human activity ‘are considered effectively useless.’”


And check out the proposed halibut and herring bycatch numbers in metric tons.

For halibut, it adds up to nearly 8 million pounds, of which the Seattle-based A80 fleet gets nearly half – the same fleet that took 9 orcas as bycatch while the whales were feeding on discarded halibut.

For herring, nearly 7.6 million pounds can be taken as bycatch.

Amendment 80 trawlers at Dutch Harbor

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.


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