Thursday, September 24, 2009
Snow crab catch could drop 14 percent or more
Here's a highly anticipated letter out today from the National Marine Fisheries Service discussing the status of various crab stocks, most notably Bering Sea snow crab.
As we've discussed recently here on Deckboss, snow crab has been under a 10-year rebuilding plan that's just about run its course.
Government scientists don't believe the stock has made enough of a recovery from its crash in the late 1990s, so the feeling among many industry players was that regulators might cut the catch limit for the upcoming season, which opens Oct. 15.
This letter seems to confirm that fear.
As I read it, the letter suggests a maximum total allowable catch of 50.5 million pounds, which would be a 14 percent drop from last season's limit of 58.6 million pounds.
But NMFS counsels even more conservative harvests as a way to speed up stock recovery under a proposed five-year rebuilding plan extension.
"Allowing the maximum catch this year may result in a potentially greater reduction in the harvest rate in future years to meet the rebuilding goal," the letter says. "Conversely, a more conservative harvest rate this year may allow for a higher harvest rate in the future and still meet this goal."
A lot of people on both the federal and state levels have a say in setting the final catch limit for this season.
We should know by the first of next month where the fishery stands.
Snow crab, for those who don't know, is one of Alaska's most valuable commercial crab fisheries, worth roughly $50 million to $100 million dockside in recent years.
Upwards of 100 boats take part in the fishery, including some featured on the Discovery Channel's hit show, "Deadliest Catch."
Although the fishery opens Oct. 15, most of the main snow crab harvest takes place after the first of the year, when the crab are in prime condition.