Bristol Bay Red King Crab Fishery Scheduled to Open Oct. 15

Red king crab. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

Alaska’s Bristol Bay red king crab fishery is set to open at noon on Oct. 15 after being closed for two years due to stocks not meeting minimal levels for fishing. The set quota is 2.15 million pounds, just slightly lower than the 2020 opener of 2.6 million pounds.

The announcement from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) was cheered by long time drabber captains like Glenn Casto of the f/v Pinnacle, who called it a start in the right direction that would help pay bills and help out crew.

Veteran crab captains Oystein Lone, and Gabriel Prout also praised the decision to let them fish.

“It’s a needed lifeline for us to keep our businesses afloat,” said Lone, captain and owner of the f/v Confidence and f/v Pacific Mariner. “The impacts the fleet and the stock continue to face highlights the need for state and federal managers to implement better management strategies to help protect the health of the crab population and those that rely on it,” said Prout of the f/v Silver Spray.

Jamie Goen, executive director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, said that while members are looking forward to getting back on the water to do what they love, they also want to do so with minimal impact, so that the crab resource is sustainable for generations to come.

“They are tracking closely the science around the health of crab stocks and want to help crab continue to rebound,” she said. We’re adding extra measures this season during our directed pot fishery for crab to reduce our interactions with crab. We’re increasing communication with the fleet on best handling practices, clean fishing areas, and opportunities to share gear.”

ADF&G set the total allowable catch (TAC) at 2.15 million pounds, including 1,935,000 pounds for those who hold individual fishing quota (IFQ) and 215,000 pounds for community development quota (CDQ). The fishery is to close at midnight on Jan. 15, 2024.

Operators of vessels participating in the IFQ or CDA fisheries must notify the Coast Guard at least 24 hours prior to department port when carrying crab pot gear, by calling (907) 581-3466, or if after hours, (907) 359-1575.

While all vessels pre-season registered for this fishery are considered selected for observer coverage, not all vessels will be required to carry an observer based on observer availability and coverage needs.

Fishermen must contact Saltwater, Inc. at (907) 539-2548 for observer coverage a minimum of 10 days prior to fishing activity. Saltwater Inc. must also be notified if a vessel was pre-season registered, but does not intend to participate in these fisheries, ADF&G said.

The Bering Sea tanner crab season also opens on Oct. 15, with a TAC of 1.32 million pounds west of 166 degrees longitude (WBT), with 1.188 million pounds for IFQ and 132,000 pounds for CDQ, and 76,000 pounds east of 166 degrees longitude (EBT), including 7684,000 pounds for IFQ and 76,000 pounds for CDQ.

The Bering Sea snow crab Saint Matthew Island section blue king crab and Pribilof District red and blue king crab fisheries remain closed.