The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced last week that the Alaska Red and Blue King Crab commercial fishery will be closed for the 2012/2013 season.
According to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Biologist Joe Stratman, the biomass of mature male red king crab has been declining since 2001 and is currently at its lowest level in 22 years.
ADF&G policy states that the department shall close the fishery if the department’s estimate of available harvest is below the minimum threshold of 200,000 pounds of legal male red king crab.
The estimate of available harvest, based on the 2012 stock assessment survey results is approximately 15,600 pounds, which is well below the minimum threshold.
“We performed catch-survey analysis in nine different areas in the southeast region,” Stratman said. “This analysis revealed that there is a low number of mature crab and we will be unable to open the commercial fishery for the entire Southeast Alaska region.”
These surveys included Pybus Bay, Gambier Bay, Seymour Canal, Peril Strait, the Juneau area, Lynn Sisters, Excursion Inlet, Port Frederick and Holkham Bay.
“The 2011/2012 season resulted in a commercial harvest of approximately 176,000 pounds out of a guideline harvest level of 201,000 pounds,” Stratman stated. “We are well below threshold this year.”
According to ADF&G there are several size/sex classes of crab assessed annually, which include juvenile and mature females, and juvenile, pre-recruit, recruit and post-recruit males. The legal size for harvested red king crab is seven inches in width and six and one half inches in width for blue king crab.
“We take this one year at a time,” Stratman said. “We are very diligent and do a good job of assessing the harvestable surplus in the fishery.”
Stratman also explained that the estimates for legal and mature male red king crab for the Southeast region are 0.7 million pounds and 0.9 million pounds respectively for the 2012/13 season.
“This is a 36 percent reduction in mature crab from the prior year,” he stated. “Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing what is causing the low numbers of mature and legal crab in the fishery.”
The Southeast Alaska red and blue king crab commercial fishery would typically open on the first of November but there will be no red or blue king crab caught commercially in Southeast Alaska this season.