Bristol Bay Red King Crab Fisheries in Full Swing

Fifty-six vessels are registered and out in the rough waters
of the Bering Sea in pursuit of the lucrative Bristol Bay red king crab harvest
and more may be coming, in the wake of a partial government shutdown that
delayed the fishery several days.
State fisheries biologists at Dutch Harbor said today that
high winds and rain greeted most of the boats rushing to begin their harvest
over the last few days, after the National Marine Fisheries Service employees
returning from furloughs were quick to issue required individual fishing quota
Alaska’s Bristol Bay red king crab fishery officially began
on Oct. 15, but most harvesters were forced to remain in port until they
received those permits.
Pre-season, some 80 vessels were registered for this year’s
fishery and last year a total of 64 participated in the fishery.
Vessels affiliated with western Alaska’s community
development quota association did not need those IFQ permits and began fishing for
their quota share on Oct. 15.
Mark Gleason, executive director of Alaska Bering Sea
Crabbers, praised NMFS Alaska administrator Jim Balsiger and NMFS staff for
issuing the IFQ within 24 hours of returning to the office, saying it helped to
minimize market impacts that likely would have resulted had the season opening
been delayed any further. Gleason said the crabbers are confident that their
customers in Japan and the United States would get the highly coveted king crab
in time for holiday celebration sales. Gleason also expressed appreciation for
members of Congress from Washington state and Alaska for their efforts to
protect the interests of harvesters and coastal communities who are
economically dependent on that harvest.
Industry officials said the delay in beginning the
multi-million dollar fishery had cost vessel owners about $1,000 a day.
Harvesters and processors are now working against a deadline
of Nov. 14 to have crab headed for Japan and China on containerships.
In Anchorage owner Skip Winfree of 10th and M Seafoods said
he anticipated receipt of his first shipment of Bristol Bay red king crab
around Nov. 15.

Prices are still undetermined.