The lucrative Bristol Bay red king crab and Bering Sea snow crab fisheries opened at noon Friday. Get your drawn butter ready.
Here are a few notes to mark the season start:
• It's been five years since the crab fisheries were "rationalized." That is, since the quotas were sliced into individual shares for fishermen and processors. That took a lot of the fight out of the fisheries. Another effect was the drastic consolidation of the fleet; once the race for crab ended, the need for so many boats evaporated overnight. Here's the trend: 101 vessels fished in the first year of rationalization, 91 in the second year, 87 in the third, 88 in the fourth and 78 in the fifth. For this season, 63 crab boats had registered to fish as of opening day. That's a far cry from the 250-plus boats that used to go after the top prize, Bristol Bay red king crab, prior to rationalization.
• The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is losing its longtime crab fishery manager at Dutch Harbor. Forrest Bowers is leaving at the end of the year to take a new position with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau. Thanks, Forrest, for all your help over the years.
• Finally, although the crab fisheries are tamer than they used to be and nowhere near as deadly, what would a new crab season be without a TV film crew to stir things up? From the Unalaska police blotter:
Disorderly conduct, Oct. 14 — Drunken crew members of two vessels from the quasi-reality show "Deadliest Catch" squared off against each other in the lobby of the Grand Aleutian hotel. Those interviewed claimed "bad blood" between the two vessels had instigated the altercation.