Southeast’s commercial red king crab fishery won’t open in 2018

State managers are trying to grow the red king crab population in Southeast. (Photo/ADF&G)

Commercial crab fishermen won’t have a season for red king crab in Southeast this fall. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game made that announcement on September 7.

The lucrative fishery was open last year for the first time in six years. The catch last season was over 120,000 pounds worth around $1.3 million at the docks.

Fish and Game says estimates of legal-sized male crab have declined nine percent from last year and are below the threshold in regulation that allows for a fishery. Those estimates are based in part on an annual survey of crab stocks in seven areas of Northern and Central Southeast.

Fishermen sought changes to regulations at last winter’s meeting of the Board of Fisheries in Sitka but were unsuccessful in attempts to have more king crab fishing opportunity even while crab numbers are low. The one change that passed will allow them to apply for a commissioner’s permit to explore for king crab in offshore waters, beyond three miles.

Meanwhile, Fish and Game Friday also announced changes to the personal use fishery for king crab. Those include a new closed area in Gambier Bay on southern Admiralty Island starting September 16. Bag and possession limits are also being reduced in areas that remain open. In addition, the Board of Fish also voted in January to create a permit for the personal use fishery and require reporting. That requirement started in July.