Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials have taken the precautionary step of selecting all vessels pre-registered for the 2021-22 Bering Sea snow crab fishery for observer program coverage.
Vessel captains have been advised that it’s their responsibility to contact the state-contracted observer firm, Saltwater Inc., in Anchorage for observer coverage for the eastern and western Bering Sea bairdi Tanner crab fisheries. Captains must also advise Saltwater if they choose not to participate in either fishery. Failure to do so will result in delayed fishing operations or enforcement actions, according to the announcement.
ADF&G officials also noted that total allowable catches were to be announced in subsequent news releases, but that this announcement did not imply that a fishery would actually open during the 2021-22 season.
With the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery already shut down for the entire season and the outlook for this season’s snow crab harvest bleak, ADF&G said it wants to avoid past years issues in which some vessels selected for observer coverage ended up not fishing.
For the 2020-21 season, 73 vessels pre-registered and only 58 actually went fishing for snow crab.
Through the end of September of this year, 70 vessels were preregistered. While a few vessels begin fishing the week after Christmas, most generally head out to fish in January.
Selected catcher vessels will be required to carry a crab observer for 100% of fishing activities in designated fisheries. If a selected vessel does not participate, a vessel from the alternate list may carry an observer. If the alternate list is exhausted during a fishery or in the case of extenuating circumstances, all vessels that are actively fishing may be considered to achieve target observer coverage levels.
Late registrants will also be required to carry an observer, according to the announcement.
Catcher vessel observer costs will be covered using a combination of ADF&G cost-recovery funds and federal funds. Processing vessels must arrange and pay for their own observer coverage. Provisions are available for processor vessels to receive reimbursement from ADF&G for 30% of observer coverage for Bering Sea snow and Tanner crab.