The standardized survey is conducted every year by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. This year’s technical memorandum on the survey is online at http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/Kodiak/shellfish/crabEBS/2016_tech_memo_final_draft_comp.pdf.
Ruth Christianson, the science and policy analyst for Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers in Seattle, says that in general red king crab stocks have been pretty steady, and while the total allowable catch might be down slightly this year, it should be relatively on par with previous years.
For tanner crab, the survey numbers are down quite dramatically, especially for eastern section mature females, and those numbers haven’t been that low in many, many years, she said.
Water temperatures have a dramatic effect on crab behavior and because of that it has a dramatic effect on catchability rates for the survey, because the standardized survey goes to the same locations in the same season every year. An increase or decrease in water temperature will affect where crab are found, and this is one of the warmest years on record, both on the sea surface and ocean bottom, so it is possible the crab are just in a different place, she said. Starting next year and then every other year thereafter, NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center will be doing a northern Bering Sea Arctic survey, she said.
The survey report goes now to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Crab Plan Team, which meets in Seattle Sept. 20-23. It will also be reviewed by the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee, during the council’s Anchorage meeting in October.
Christianson said that if the fisheries open for snow and bairdi, the total allowable catch would likely be less than last year, based on thresholds in state regulations.