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Norton Sound Commercial Crabbing Will Only Take Place West of Norton Sound

Commercial fishers wanting to harvest Norton Sound Red King Crab this summer can start fishing a week from today [on June 15th]. That was announced by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Friday.

According to ADF&G’s announcement, this year’s guideline harvest level (GHL) is over 140,000 pounds of crab. That amount would be considered low compared to recent years of crabbing in the Norton Sound, but during this unusual commercial crabbing season, it’s too much for crab for some.

Towards the beginning of March, the Alaska Board of Fisheries ruled on a slew of proposals given to them by the Northern Norton Sound Advisory Committee. Based on some observer data pointing to a reproductive failure of the crab stock, the advisory committee (AC) recommended the Board close crabbing in the Norton Sound for the entire year. The Board of Fisheries adopted this proposal, but with some modifications that only closed off areas east of 167 degrees longitude to summer commercial crabbing.

A map of the Norton Sound region showing the areas closed to commercial crabbing this summer, as per the Alaska Board of Fisheries decision in March. Photo provided by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. (2020)

That prevents fishers from catching Norton Sound Red King Crab anywhere in the Norton Sound this season, however it does still allow crabbers to set their pots in waters closer to King Island and St. Lawrence Island.

ADF&G says summer subsistence crabbing can still take place in the commercially closed areas.

The Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, Kawerak, and the Northern Norton Sound Advisory Committee all voiced their opposition to ADF&G allowing the commercial crabbing season to take place this year. The three regional entities believe the crab stocks are in danger of crashing and could be overfished, beyond recovery. NSEDC announced earlier this year that the corporation will not be purchasing crab this summer, in part because of the current status of the crab stocks.

The 2020 summer commercial crab season in the Norton Sound opens at noon on June 15th.

Image at top: Crab pots sit empty in Nome’s small boat harbor during the summer season. Photo from NSEDC’s website, via public domain.

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