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

Red king crab
Red king crab. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

Alaska’s only summer red king crab fishery concluded on Sunday, 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 they expected that by that date the quota would be achieved, given the catch rate for the open access fishery which began on June 15.

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. The average weight of the king crab caught in the fishery is about 2.8 pounds, according to ADF&G biologists.

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 Corp. in Nome voted this past spring to purchase king crab caught in this summary fishery. NSEDC officials said that 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.

NSEDC elected to not purchase crab last year 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 ADF&G 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.