Bering Sea crabbers got the bad news they expected – low catch quotas and a canceled tanner fishery for the 2016/17 season. State managers announced last week that the catch for Bristol Bay red king crab will be just shy of 8.5 million pounds, down 15 percent from last year.
For Bering Sea snow crab, the harvest limit was slashed nearly in half to 21.5 million pounds, the lowest catch in 45 years. Last year the total take was 40.6 million pounds, and it was nearly 68 million pounds the previous season.
An even bigger hit to the crab industry will come from the closure of the bairdi tanner crab fishery, which had been growing steadily and produced 20 million pounds last season. Biologists said not enough female crabs were seen during summer surveys to reach a minimum threshold needed to open the fishery.
Crabbers believe the tanners are still out there, but have relocated from the standard survey regions. The small blue king crab fishery at St. Matthew Island also was closed for the season.
“With the bairdi Tanner fishery closed and no opening at St. Matt’s and with the cut backs – whatever problems are causing poor recruitment of snow crab are impacting other crab species as well,” said market expert John Sackton. The Bering Sea crab fisheries open October 15.