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2019 Commercial Crabbing Quota Pales in Comparison to Years Past

Red crabs piled on top of one another.

Norton Sound crabbers will begin harvesting red king crab for the summer commercial fishery tomorrow (Tuesday). The Alaska Department of Fish & Game — and crabbers, for that matter — hope the season won’t last too long, as the quota is even smaller than last year.

According to Jim Menard, area manager for the Norton Sound region, 14 permit holders were signed up to participate in the commercial fishery as of Thursday. Today, there are 21.

“There is a big drop in what’s available. Last year, there was 290,000 during the summer fishery, and this year, we’re at 147,000 pounds, so we are at about half. Maybe folks aren’t as fired up as they were last year.”

Last year, Fish & Game had 33 permit holders fishing during the summer commercial crab fishery.*

And that total guideline harvest level (GHL) of 147,300 pounds includes the leftover quota from this past winter.

“Since they only got a little bit — about 3,000 pounds — and they had a 12,000-pound quota, the extra 9,000 goes over to the summer fishery. And there’s also the CDQ. Part of that 147,000, 11,295 of that, is the CDQ fishery.”

Crabber Adem Boeckmann fished during the winter and is participating again in the summer commercial fishery. He says he continues crabbing because it’s his passion, even though it’s becoming harder to make ends meet.

“It pays the bills, but there’s no retirement, no health insurance; there’s none of that. There’s a lot of paid vacation, I guess you could say, because we have limited opportunities (to crab), but even then, I need to be a carpenter on the off-season to make things pencil out.”

Boeckmann points out that less than five years ago, the average GHL in Norton Sound was more than 400,000 pounds of crab, but now, the quota is just about a third of that amount. He suspects it will be a tough go for a few years before crab stocks rebound.

Menard warns this year could be a short commercial crabbing season, as long as the fishers find the crab. Boeckmann certainly hopes that’s the case this summer.

“Everybody is hoping it’s going to be a quick season. I also hope so, but it could be a long, drawn-out affair looking for crab.”

According to ADF&G, the Norton Sound summer red king crab fishery will open at 12 o’clock noon on Tuesday.*

*Note: although the ADF&G press release linked above shows a “date issued” of June 10, 2018, it was, in fact, released June 2019.

Image at top: photo provided by Adem Boeckmann (2019).

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