Sunday, September 9, 2012

A mixed outlook for Alaska crab

Fewer snow crab this season? ASMI photo

The quota for Bristol Bay red king crab might go up a bit, but the Bering Sea snow crab quota could see a substantial cut.

That's the outlook in a nutshell for Alaska's two most valuable commercial crab fisheries, based on this technical memorandum detailing results of this summer's eastern Bering Sea bottom trawl survey.

Typically, the quotas for these fisheries are announced at the end of September or in early October, once federal and state scientists have analyzed all the available data and settle on the numbers.

With respect to Bristol Bay red king crab, Deckboss would direct your attention to Table 6 on page 32 of the PDF, under the "Legal male" column. It shows a biomass estimate of 19,713 metric tons of legal-sized male crabs, the big boys that crab fishermen can retain and sell. That's an increase from the prior year's estimate of 15,412 tons.

As for Bering Sea snow crab, also known as opilio, take a look at Table 19 on page 45. It shows a legal male biomass estimate of 104,456 tons, down nearly 29 percent from the 2011 estimate of 146,275 tons.

This suggests we could see a retrenchment from the recent upward trend in harvest quotas for snow crab.

Deckboss cautions that many factors go into calculating harvest quotas. But estimated legal male biomass is one good indicator of where we might be headed for the upcoming season.

The technical memo includes data on other fisheries including Bering Sea bairdi Tanner crab, a brawny version of the snow crab. The numbers suggest the fishery is likely to remain closed, as it has been for the past two seasons.

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