Deckboss hears a group of concerned Bering Sea crab fishermen are holding something of a summit this morning in Seattle with Jim Balsiger, head of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
They're meeting at the Bay Cafe at Fishermen's Terminal to express worries about a potential slashing of the snow crab catch limit this coming winter season.
Here's a recent item I wrote for Pacific Fishing magazine that explains:
OPILIO WOES: Will next season’s Bering Sea snow crab harvest be a lot smaller? Very possibly, though not purely for lack of crab. The concern is that the stock hasn’t made enough progress under a 10-year federal rebuilding plan implemented in 2000 after the crab population, and the commercial catch, took a nosedive. A group of scientists, the Crab Plan Team, has recommended a significant cut in the catch limit for this coming winter season to meet the rebuilding goal by the required 2011. Two factors, however, could have a major bearing on whether we see a quota cut: the results of this summer’s at-sea stock survey, and a forthcoming federal legal opinion on the implications of not rebuilding the stock within the specified timeframe. Bering Sea snow crab harvests have ranged from 25 million pounds to more than 60 million pounds this decade. But the growing catch remains a far cry from hauls of more than 300 million pounds seen in the early 1990s. Because of the rebuilding concerns, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will delay its announcement on the season catch limit until October to allow for additional scientific review. Normally the quota is announced by late September.
Word is this morning's breakfast meeting with Balsiger could draw even some "Deadliest Catch" celebrity crabbers like Sig Hansen.
Significantly, here's that legal opinion from NMFS clarifying the situation on snow crab rebuilding.
I don't have time to analyze the letter this morning, but I hear some crab industry players view it with some relief.