Snow Crab Season Extended
Tuesday, May 08 2012
For the first time ever, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has extended the snow crab season. ADF&G announced Tuesday morning that it would keep some fishing grounds scheduled to close on May 15 open for an extra two weeks.
The Bering Sea has been covered in record-setting ice since crab season got underway in January and with just a few weeks left, fishermen still have almost 20 million pounds of snow crab to catch.
Fish and Game biologist Britta Baechler says the area that will remain open is where most of the crab already harvested this season was caught.
“Basically we just want to give the fleet a little bit more opportunity by expanding the available grounds that they have to fish," she says.
Whether the additional grounds will actually help crabbers or not remains to be seen. Right now, all of the crab grounds are covered in ice and no boats are fishing. The fleet will need to pull in almost 5.5 million pounds of crab per week from now until May 31 in order to harvest all of this year’s allocation on time.
"Since January 8, the average harvest per week has been about 3.9 million pounds and in the last two weeks the average has been 1.4 million pounds," Baechler says. "So they’re well under half of what they have been harvesting since January in the last few weeks.”
That trend is likely to continue this week. The ice forecast shows heavy floes covering the crab grounds through Saturday. Baechler says Fish and Game is considering whether to extend the season beyond May 31 in light of the ice conditions. She says the department will announce that decision sometime next week.
The area covered in the current extension is from 171 degrees west to 173 degrees west longitude.