Permits In Hand, Crab Fleet Starts Fishing

Alaska’s king crab fishing furlough is over.

Most of the fleet received their quota permits from the National Marine Fisheries Service by the end of the day Thursday. NMFS employees had been furloughed during the government shutdown. They sped through the permits when they got back to work yesterday morning.

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Photo by Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB - Unalaska.
Photo by Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska.

A few vessels still need approval for their hired skippers. And other boats are waiting for crew members to fly back up north, after they got fed up with the delay and went home.

But for the most part, the fleet is free to leave port and start fishing.

Jake Jacobsen runs the Inter-cooperative Exchange, a coop of about 80 boats. He says he expects that fishermen will be able to catch enough crab in the next three weeks to meet the Japanese New Year’s rush. Missing that deadline was a big concern.

When the king crab season actually started on October 15, only six vessels were cleared to fish. Those boats were fishing for community development quota, handed out by the state.

Now that all the boats have their quota, the only hurdle Jacobsen expects they’ll face is Mother Nature.

“Ice is not an issue this time of year,” Jacobsen says. “But it wouldn’t be king crab fishing without some weather.”

Right now, the remnants of a powerful typhoon are sweeping through the Aleutians. A wind warning is in effect through Saturday.

Jacobsen says the plan for this weekend — and the rest of the fishing season — is simple.

“Catch a lot of crab, be safe, and get back to the dock,” Jacobsen says.

The king crab fishery is open until January 15.