The Alaskan snow crab 2022/23 season is cancelled by the ADF&G after one billion crab have gone missing
The Alaskan Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) has announced that there will be no snow crab fishing in 2022/23 due to their falling numbers, after one billion crab have gone missing in two years.
It is a major blow to America’s seafood industry because for the first time in state history, there will be no winter snow crab season in the Bering Sea. While restaurant menus will suffer, scientists worry what the sudden population plunge means for the health of the Arctic ecosystem.
An estimated one billion crabs have mysteriously disappeared in two years, state officials said, marking a 90% drop in their population.
Around 60 fishing boats involved in the Alaskan crab fishing industry now face an uncertain future as the fleet also face a second year without the Red King crab fishery, which was also cancelled in 2021.
Ben Daly, a researcher with ADF&G, is investigating where the crabs have gone. He monitors the health of the State’s fisheries, which produce 60% of the nation’s seafood.
“Disease is one possibility,” Daly told CBS News.
He also points to climate change. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Alaska is the fastest warming state in the country, and is losing billions of tons of ice each year — critical for crabs that need cold water to survive.
“Environmental conditions are changing rapidly,” Daly said. “We’ve seen warm conditions in the Bering Sea the last couple of years, and we’re seeing a response in a cold adapted species, so it’s pretty obvious this is connected. It is a canary in a coal mine for other species that need cold water.”
The press release from the ADF&G read:
2022/23 Bering Sea Snow Crab Season Closed
“The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have completed analysis of 2022 NMFS trawl survey results for Bering Sea snow crab. The stock is estimated to be below the ADF&G regulatory threshold for opening a fishery. Therefore, Bering Sea snow crab will remain closed for the 2022/23 season.
“ADF&G appreciates and carefully considered all input from crab industry stakeholders prior to making this decision. Understanding crab fishery closures have substantial impacts on harvesters, industry, and communities, ADF&G must balance these impacts with the need for long-term conservation and sustainability of crab stocks. Management of Bering Sea snow crab must now focus on conservation and rebuilding given the condition of the stock. Efforts to advance our science and understanding of crab population dynamics are underway. With crab industry input, ADF&G will continue to evaluate options for rebuilding, including potential for sustainably fishing during periods of low abundance. This will allow ADF&G to work on issues related to state and federal co-management, observer coverage, discard mortality, and fishery viability.”
Industry reaction has been one of disappointment and concern.
“These are truly unprecedented and troubling times for Alaska’s iconic crab fisheries and for the hard-working fishermen and communities that depend on them,” said Jamie Goen, Executive Director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers on the announcement of the closure.
“For the second year in a row, the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery is closed. Paired with that, the Bering Sea snow crab fishery is closed for the first time ever. Second and third generation crab-fishing families will go out of business due to the lack of meaningful protections by decision-makers to help crab stocks recover.”