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After two-year closure, lucrative Bristol Bay red king crab fishery reopens

The fishery closed in 2021 for the first time in more than 25 years due to low abundance. But this season, fishermen will have a total of more than 2.1 million pounds to catch — that includes both Individual Fishing Quota and Community Development Quota.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has reopened the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery, following a two-year closure.

ADF&G announced Friday morning that the lucrative crab fishery will open Oct. 15, following analysis of survey data by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The fishery closed in 2021 for the first time in more than 25 years due to low abundance. But this season, fishermen will have a total of more than 2.1 million pounds to catch — that includes both Individual Fishing Quota and Community Development Quota. In 2020, the total allowable catch was nearly 2.7 million pounds.

According to fisheries officials, summer trawl survey data shows higher numbers of mature females within the population. And while male and female crab are still at historic lows, the fishery is not at or approaching an “overfished” status.

ADF&G said that the total estimated amounts of both mature and reproductive females are above thresholds required to open the fishery.

Red kings are the largest commercially harvested crab and are mainly caught in Bristol Bay. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Bristol Bay stock is considered the second largest king crab population in the world.

ADF&G also announced Friday morning that the Bering Sea snow crab fishery will remain closed for a second year. Snow crab — or opilio crab — was declared “overfished” in 2021, and regulators closed the fishery the next year, not long after state surveys showed record highs for snow crab recruitment. The drastic drop came as a surprise to many in the industry. Some theories suggest climate change is to blame.

There will be a western and eastern Bering Sea tanner crab season this year. That will also open on Oct. 15. ADF&G has allotted a total of more than 1.3 million pounds to the western district of tanner crab — or bairdi — and 760,000 pounds to the eastern. The western allotment is up more than 50% from last year’s total allowable catch, while eastern tanner TAC has dropped nearly 35% from last year.

The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery opens Oct. 15 at noon and closes Jan. 15.

Hailing from Southwest Washington, Maggie moved to Unalaska in 2019. She's dabbled in independent print journalism in Oregon and completed her Master of Arts in English Studies at Western Washington University — where she also taught Rhetoric and Composition courses.