Signals point to a recovery, but concerns persist about crab size and handling mortality
In the interest of preserving the Norton Sound red king crab stock, NSEDC has made the difficult decision to not purchase crab from the 2022 winter commercial fishery. The results from the 2021 Norton Sound Alaska Department of Fish and Game trawl survey show an increasing number of crab growing to legal size (measuring 4 3/4” or greater across the carapace) for commercial harvest, which is encouraging. However, the data still appear to show very few crab that will be of market size (at least 5” across the carapace), which is the minimum size NSEDC will purchase.
The viability of the present and future crab stock depends upon the current mature crab having the opportunity to breed. NSEDC believes a commercial winter fishery will negatively impact the stock’s health while supplying few marketable crab.
In conjunction with the decision to not purchase crab from the winter fishery, NSEDC and Norton Sound Seafood Products (NSSP) will not be selling commercial crabbing gear or commercial quantities of bait.
NSEDC will be making a determination on how to approach the 2022 summer fishery in the coming weeks and will inform fishers of our plans well in advance of the season. We are cautiously optimistic that a level of commercial harvest could be achieved while preserving crab for the coming years, both for reproduction and future harvest. In essence, we believe any commercial harvest of this current cohort should be conservatively managed and spread out to achieve longer-term benefits for both the crab stock and all users who depend upon it.