Sea Ice Moves Toward Snow Crab Grounds

Friday, February 15 2013

Another icy weekend is in store for the Bering Sea snow crab fleet. National Weather Service ice forecaster Kathleen Cole says winds will continue to blow ice into the crab grounds around the Pribilof Islands through the weekend.

“Probably to its furthest south extent by Sunday morning, and then after that,  we will get some southerly... a southerly fetch, and then some southerly winds moving up early next week.”

While the southerly winds will push the ice north, away from the crab grounds, Cole says they will also likely push ice into the St. Paul harbor.

“And there is some thicker ice in these floes.”

That could be a problem for boats trying to make deliveries to the Trident Seafoods plant in St. Paul. But Cole says the long-range prognosis for ice is pretty mild compared to last winter. She says the yo-yoing of the ice around the Pribilofs is to be expected, but that the ice probably won’t stick around for long periods of time, and that it might even clear out all together ahead of schedule this spring.

“I’m thinking it might be at least a normal retreat, if not even a little bit faster than normal.”

That’s a shift from earlier long-range projections, which showed the possibility of another icy winter.

Jake Jacobsen is the executive director of Inter-cooperative Exchange, the Bering Sea’s largest crab coop. He says the boats in his coop started fishing a little bit earlier this year with the ice in mind. Now they’re ahead of the curve, having delivered 80 percent of their ‘northern’ crab already, compared to just 35 percent at this time last year.

The National Marine Fisheries Service couldn’t provide similar statistics for the fleet as a whole, but just a little over fifty percent of the overall quota has been landed.

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