Kodiak’s waterfront is bedecked with hundreds of “7-bys,” the big, heavy crab pots, as boats stack their gear for major fisheries in the Bering Sea.
The Bristol Bay red king crab season is set to open Oct. 15, with a harvest of 8.6 million pounds, similar to last year. A reopened Tanner crab fishery will produce a 3 million-pound catch; the numbers for Bering Sea snow crab, Alaska’s largest crab fishery, will be out next week.
The fisheries are set to open on schedule, said Heather Fitch, regional manager for ADF&G at Dutch Harbor. However, due to the federal government shutdown, the season could be stalled because crabbers won’t know how much they can catch. The Bering Sea crab fisheries operate under a catch share system and federal workers who compute the shares are off the job.
Nearly 500 eligible vessels and companies have applied for 2013/2014 crab quotas, said market expert John Sackton. Furthermore, the crab fishery depends on a share-matching system between harvesters and processors. That can’t be determined until the exact amounts of quota for each shareholder are determined by federal regulators.
The agency lacks the manpower to process applications and issue federal fishing licenses, said Alaska region director Jim Balsiger at the North Pacific council meeting this week in Anchorage. Balsiger said he was appealing to the federal Commerce Department to make personnel available.
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