Alaska’s Commercial Fishing Season Ends While Achieving Extremely Rare Feat

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images)

Alaska has shut the book on its commercial fishing season, along with an extraordinary feat. According to a report from the US Coast Guard, Alaska made it through this season without a single fatality.

The data is recorded from Oct. 1 of one year to Sept. 20 of the next, and logs deaths caused by any incident at sea. This could be falling overboard, a sunken or lost ship, or an accident on deck. The Coast Guard reported that the last time this happened, a no-fatality season, was in 2015.

Scott Wilwert, Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Coordinator with the Coast Guard 17th District, said that the commercial fishing industry has really stepped up its game when it comes to safety.

“The efforts of Coast Guard fishing vessel examiners and maritime training organizations like the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) and the North Pacific Vessel Owners Association (NPFVOA) also play a vital role in preparing fishermen to survive an incident at sea and utilize the equipment they have onboard during an emergency,” said Wilwert.

The Coast Guard still wants commercial fishing vessels to “be fully aware of the operating constraints that may pertain to their vessels, including awareness of the risks of both overloading a vessel, icing, and operating outside the restrictions of their stability letters as well as the crew’s ability.” According to a report from FOX Weather, safety inspections are mandatory for vessels operating beyond 3 miles offshore.

Alaska Crab Fishing Season Canceled As One Billion Snow Crabs Disappear

Earlier this month, a massive disappearance of nearly 1 billion snow crabs from the Bering Sea over the last two years prompted the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to cancel the snow crab fishing season in 2022. Fishermen were immediately outraged, as this decision impacts their ability to make a living.

The snow crab population decreased by 90% over two years. Environmental change and disease were on the top list of likely culprits. Alaska is warming faster than any other state. This leads to a decline in the Arctic climate the snow crabs need to survive.

Now, scientists believe they may have found the answer to the question of what decimated the crab population. “[The] cold water habitat that they need was virtually absent,” explained Erin Fedewa, a marine biologist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. “Which suggests that temperature is really the key culprit in the population decline.”

Climate change is drastically affecting Alaska and the Arctic, as evidenced by the massive die-off. “Environmental conditions are changing rapidly,” Ben Daly, a researcher with ADF&G, said to CBS News. “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.”