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This week, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) cancelled the entirety of snow crab season in the Bering Sea for the first time in its history. Additionally, the ADFG is also barring any catch of snow crabs in Bristol Bay.
This move comes after research was released and noted that over 1 billion crabs are missing from US waters. Many theories have appeared about the missing crabs. Some believe that the crabs shifted habitat into Russian waters while others cite climate change as a major player. The truth is yet to be determined. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has been tracking a slow decline in crab populations overall, but the new sharp decline in snow crab is a surprise to many.
Other crab species have also been a concern. In October 2021, ADFG also closed king crab season for the first time since the 1990s with population concerns being a major factor.
ADFG does not make closure announcements on a whim. In this process, they consult with all parties involved to balance economic needs with conservation.
The Washington Post cited a conversation from within the crabbing industry. “These are truly unprecedented and troubling times for Alaska’s iconic crab fisheries,” said Jamie Goen, executive director of the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, a trade association that says it represents some 70 percent of local crab harvesters, in a statement. “Second and third generation crab-fishing families will go out of business due to the lack of meaningful protections by decision-makers to help crab stocks recover.”
Additional impacts may include a lapse of snow crab in your local stores and restaurants this year and possibly in the future as researches seek to explain the even sharper decline in snow crab populations.
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