Sea Ice Headed for the Pribilofs

Friday, February 01 2013

Sea ice pushing south towards the Pribilof Islands could interfere with the snow crab fishery in coming days. National Weather Service ice forecaster Becky Legett says a low pressure system south of the Aleutians combined with a high pressure system in the Bering Strait area is creating strong northerly winds.

“And that is going to bring the ice edge down between 10 and 15 nautical miles to the southwest through Monday and early next week.”

Legett says that will likely result in ice encircling St. Paul Island, which could make it difficult for boats to deliver to the Trident plant there.

So far this season, ice hasn’t been a problem for the crab fleet. That’s in contrast to last winter, when crabbers spent the better part of the spring dodging ice, and ultimately had to request a season extension in order to catch the full quota. Legett doesn’t think it’s very likely that will happen again.

“What we’re thinking is that the ice is going to kind of, you could say, ‘dancing’ around the Pribilof Islands this winter. It’s going to be coming down like it is now, and then it’ll be going back and then as the different weather systems come through it will come back down and then back up. So it won’t be as bad as last year by far -- that was an exceptional year -- but it’s something to be aware of. The ice is out there, getting close to the islands, and you want to pay attention to what’s going on with the ice forecasts.”

Legett adds that she’ll have a better idea of how this particular front is going to affect the Pribilofs by Monday.

About a third of this year’s 66 million pound snow crab harvest has already been landed.

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