There will be no commercial tanner crab fishery in the Bering Sea this season.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries made the decision last week after a last-ditch attempt to allow a limited harvest failed in a split 3-3 vote.
Unalaska Mayor Frank Kelty attended the board meeting in Kodiak, where members considered a proposal that would have let crabbers harvest 10 percent of mature male bairdi in the western district.
“The industry folks, coastal communities, and processors — we thought four million pounds out of a total 40 million pounds was a pretty minimal ask,” said Kelty.
But concerns about conservation finally won out, and the $50 million fishery has been canceled this year.
The tanner season had been in limbo since the fall, when the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) announced the stock had fallen short of the opening threshold by nearly two million pounds.
The crab industry and the cities of Unalaska and St. Paul questioned the accuracy of the population survey as well as the conservative management strategy, which relies on female biomass as the deciding factor.
The bairdi fishery supported strong harvests for the last two seasons, but ADFG biologists say numbers are now down across the board: record-low females, fewer males, and almost no recruitment of juvenile crab.
Kelty said there may be hope for next season, because the board has decided to review criticisms of the harvest strategy at a future meeting.
“We’re hoping this is be an issue that we can get addressed later on this year," said Kelty. "So we don’t have another harvestable surplus of male crab left on the ground because of the female threshold level."
The Board of Fisheries has said that meeting may happen this spring.