Norton Sound Fishermen Harvest 308,623 Pounds of Red King Crab

Alaska’s only summer red king crab fishery concluded on July 24, with the entire guideline harvest of 308,623 pounds of the succulent crab delivered by Norton Sound small boat fishermen, with retail prices commanding up to $74.95 a pound.

Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in mid-July that they expected that given the catch rate for the open access fishery which began on June 15, the quota would be achieved.   

Eight permit holders for the 2022 winter commercial fishery harvested 7,357 pounds of the 27,328-pound guideline harvest level for the winter fishery. According to ADF&G biologists, the average weight of the king crab caught in this fishery was about 2.8 pounds.

The total Norton Sound red king crab guideline harvest level is 341,600 pounds, with 7.5% of that total reserved for the community development quota fishery.   

The Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation in Nome voted this past spring to purchase king crab caught in this summary fishery. NSEDC officials said the vote came after two years of decreased fishing pressure and the maturing of a new cohort of crab, with data indicating that crab populations there have rebounded to a level that allows for responsible harvest.

Last year, NSEDC elected to not purchase crab despite the regulatory reopening of the fishery due to concerns that a commercial harvest would hinder the recovery of crab stocks. With the maturing of a new cohort of crab indications are that this crab population has rebounded to a level allowing for a sustainable harvest.

The Fish and Game summer trawl survey from 2021 provided essential data showing a significant pulse of legal sized male crab moving into the fishery and reports of productive winter subsistence fishing appeared to support that data, NSEDC officials said.