Alaska Snow Crab Season Closed for First Time Ever, Old-Timer Warns ‘The Hammer Is Going to Fall’

Alaska’s snow crab winter season was canceled for the first time in state history due to concerns about the species’ declining population.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the decision last week amid concerns for the Bering Sea’s snow crab population, which scientists say has declined 90 percent in the past two years, CBS News reported.

“The stock is estimated to be below the ADF&G regulatory threshold for opening a fishery. As such, Bering Sea Snow Crab will remain closed for the 2022-23 season,” ADF&G said in a statement.

This is of particular concern for the state of Alaska, whose economy derives a large portion of its revenue from seafood such as crab.

It also comes amid America’s battle with food shortages as the nation grapples with record-high inflation.

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Last year, state officials noted similar concerns among the population, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

One boat captain, Dean Gribble Sr., who has been crab fishing for over 40 years, told NBC News that this decision will be “life-changing, if not career-ending, for people.”

Gribble, 63, warned the financial fallout will likely break the men whose livelihoods depend on crabbing season.

“A lot of these guys with families and kids have no choice but to get out. That’s where the hammer will fall — on the crew,” Gribble said.

Were the authorities right to end snow crab season?

He added: “For the last three or four years that I’ve been fishing for opium, I’ve had to go to the Russian border and fish.”

It is still unknown what is behind the sharp decline in the crab population, although scientists at the ADF&G have attributed it to climate change.

“Environmental conditions are changing rapidly,” ADF&G researcher Ben Daly said, according to CBS. “We’ve seen warm conditions in the Bering Sea in recent years, and we’re seeing a response in a cold-adapted species, so it’s pretty obvious that this is related. It’s a canary in a coal mine for other species that need cold water.”

NBC reported that the snow crab population began to collapse after the Bering Sea experienced record-breaking heat in 2019.

“We’re with you. It’s hard to predict or pretend we can affect a stock exposed to Mother Nature and climate change,” said Miranda Westphal, site management biologist at ADF&G.

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“You need time and space and favorable conditions for reconstruction.”

Westphal said that in 2018, the ADF&G, which manages Alaska’s crab fishery along with the National Marine Fisheries Service, “saw the biggest pulse of small crabs we’ve seen in the history of the fishery.”

NBC reported that the department once again posted promising numbers in 2019. Due to COVID-19 no survey was conducted in 2020.

However, Westphal said last year: “We experienced the largest crash we have ever seen in snow crabs. That was really unexpected. I don’t think anyone saw that coming.”

She suspects the crab simply couldn’t survive the rising temperatures.

“They couldn’t handle it. They couldn’t find enough food. They couldn’t move to colder waters,” she said, adding, “Probably the most plausible explanation is starvation.”

https://www.westernjournal.com/alaska-snow-crab-season-closed-first-time-ever-old-timer-warns-hammer-going-fall/ Alaska Snow Crab Season Closed for First Time Ever, Old-Timer Warns ‘The Hammer Is Going to Fall’

Linh

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