Alaska Cancels King, Snow Crab Fishing Season Due to Population Concerns

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Getty)

Bad news for fishermen in Alaska. The state’s Department of Fish and Game announced it is canceling the Bristol Bay king crab season for the second year in a row as well as calling off the winter hunting season due to smaller snow crabs. 

According to The Hill, Alaska officials decided to cancel the hunting season due to the concern for both king and snow crab populations. This decision was made after the release of a summer survey showing the decline of both crab species. The agency also released a statement about the situation. “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.” 

Alaska officials further explained that the management of Bering Sea snow crab must now focus on conservation as well as rebuilding. This is given the condition of the stock. Following the news, the trade association Alaskan Bering Sea Crabbers also issued a statement on the decision. “Many members of Alaska’s fleet will face bankruptcy, including second and third-generation crabbers whose families are steeped in the culture of this industry. Long-time crew members who have worked these decks for decades will be jobless.” 

Jamie Geon, Executive Director of the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers shared his thoughts with ADN. “I am struggling for words. This is so unbelievable that this is happening. We have third-generation fishermen who are going to go out of business.” 

Alaska’s Concerns For the Crab Population Are Based on the Latest Survey By the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

The Hill further reports that biologists and fishery managers have long warned of the decline of the snow and king crab populations.

All studies have shown that warming waters are linked to climate change to be the key issue. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s survey of the Bering Sea Continental Shelf also shows that while the crab numbers have raised from a record low in 2021, the number of mature male crabs still remains low. 

The survey also revealed that the mature male snow crab population decreased by 22% from 2021. Mature female snow crab numbers also fell by 33%. However, the number of juvenile male and female snow crabs has gone up since last year. There was a jump by 138% and 3,902%. This may mean that the species may recover. 

Ben Daly, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game research coordinator, further explained to ADN that while this year may have been enough for another small harvest, the model struggled to account for the dramatic population decline after the 2019 warming. “We have extreme conversation concerns about the population. We have serious doubts about the model.”