Alaska Journal | FISH FACTOR: Huge cohort of Tanner crabs is good news for Gulf of Alaska
Unlike the Bering Sea, there is good news for crab in the Gulf of Alaska.
A huge cohort of Tanner crabs that biologists have been following in the western region for three years have again appeared in this summer’s survey.
“We were optimistic and we found them. Pretty much everywhere from Kodiak to False Pass we found these crabs and in good quantity, ”said Nat Nichols, regional director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at Kodiak.
The bairdi Tanners are the larger cousins of the snow crab (opilio Tanners) found in the Bering Sea.
“The very, very rough preliminary numbers appear to have at least reached the minimum abundance thresholds in the three regions of Kodiak, Chignik and the Southern Peninsula,” Nichols said. “So we are thrilled with this. “
Tanner’s last opener was in 2020 for 400,000 pounds, the minimum abundance number for a district to have a fishery. A fleet of 49 boats participated in this fishery and averaged over $ 4 per pound for exploitable male crabs which typically weigh between 2 and 4 pounds each.
“A Tanner crab becomes legal size around the age of four or five, and then it begins to die of natural causes or to age in population around seven or eight,” Nichols explained.
“Once they start to become legal, we can expect them to stay potentially three years, and there will be more little crabs behind them, so you can kind of think of that as the front edge. “
The new cohort, Nichols said, is one of the largest ever. It appears to be made up of two large year classes with a wide range of sizes that could withstand several years of fishing.
“In 2019, the estimate was 223 million, then in 2020 it fell to 108 million. Each year this number decreases, as the mortality of the smaller crabs is quite high. Anyone who has opened a halibut stomach knows it, ”Nichols said.
“And a lot of them are females, so they won’t be in the fishery. But male crabs are getting bigger and approaching legal size. So even if you see the estimates go down a bit, it’s still going to turn into a pretty good number of legal water seizures. “
Several other regulatory calculations have yet to be satisfied as managers peruse survey data before a 2022 Tanner fishery gets the green light.
“But based on meeting minimum abundance thresholds, it at least opens the door to a conversation about six different fisheries,” Nichols said. “And that doesn’t even include the overlapping section of the Semedi Islands in Kodiak District which would also be open. In this scenario, seven different sections would be open. “
A Tanner announcement will be made in early November for the fisheries that open in mid-January.
By the way, the Tanner crab is always spelled with a capital “T” because it is named after the discoverer Zera Luther Tanner, commander of the research vessel Albatross that explored the waters of Alaska in the late 1800s.
Alaska’s salmon catch in 2021 exceeded 219 million fish, 15% better than the pre-season forecast of 190 million.
The two biggest silver producers exceeded expectations the most. The tow of sockeye was 54 million compared to the 46.5 million reds expected.
Likewise, the pink salmon catch of nearly 151 million has exceeded the projection of 27 million.
And although the return of chum salmon has been disappointing, about 4 million less than the projection of 15.3 million, almost 5 million chum salmon have been caught since August 1, “making it one the three largest chum harvests in the past decade, “according to Dan Lesh, fisheries economist with the McKinley Research Group, which compiles weekly monitoring reports for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
The coho catch of almost 2.3 million is 1.6 million lower than forecast and a harvest of 244,000 chinook is 25,000 below expectations.
But despite the overall larger salmon catches, smaller fish will result in less impressive harvest totals and income for Alaskan anglers. Yet with higher dock prices across the board, it will still produce a good payoff.
The Alaska Department of Fisheries and Game will release catch totals, fish prices and overall revenues by region in early October.
As the salmon season draws to a close, many more fall fisheries are underway or in preparation.
In the southeast, beam trawlers are on the ground for a third shot at northern prawn totaling 650,000 pounds in two districts. The spot shrimp fishery opens October 1 for 457,300 pounds, and the Dungeness crab reopens the same day for a two-month fishery.
The Southeast sea cucumber fishery opens to divers on October 4 with a catch of nearly 1.9 million pounds. The dive for red sea urchins also opens with a harvest set at nearly 3 million pounds.
In Prince William Sound, cod opened on September 1 for pots and longlines on vessels less than 50 feet, and a fishery is underway for 32,600 pounds of lingcod.
Chignik opens its doors to sea cucumber divers on September 20 with a harvest limit of 15,000 pounds.
Kodiak opens on October 1 with a catch quota of 120,000 pounds and 20,000 pounds in the southern peninsula.
Kodiak crabbers still shoot Dungeness crab until the end of October. This take is 1.3 million pounds so far.
Alaskan halibut fishermen took 70 percent of their nearly 19 million pound catch limit with less than 6 million pounds to go. Homer, Seward, Kodiak and Juneau are the main ports of disembarkation and dock prices remain at over $ 6 a pound, exceeding $ 7 at Homer, reflecting the still high demand for fresh fish.
Catches from Alaska and the West Coast do not satisfy Americans’ appetite for halibut and trade data shows the United States has imported 10.3 million pounds of Atlantic halibut so far this year from Eastern Canada for a value of nearly $ 77 million.
For sablefish, just over half of the catch over 43 million pounds was landed.
Fishing for pollock, cod, plaice and other groundfish continues throughout the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The Gulf pollock fishery reopened on September 1.
The proposed 2022 groundfish catches are on the agenda of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Board at its meeting via Zoom from October 6 to 15.
Lost fish bucks
As Alaska strives to find new sources of revenue, its leaders may seek to limit the loss of fish and crab caught in federal waters (three to 200 miles) from the Gulf of Alaska and the sea. of Bering who go elsewhere.
Data compiled by NOAA research economists at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center provides a breakdown of groundfish shares and off-vessel values (dockside) by vessel owner’s state of residence.
Of all the groundfish caught in Alaska in 2020, a share of 0.78 went to non-Alaskan vessels.
Examples by species show that a share of 0.76 of all flatfish was caught by vessels other than those in Alaska, a share of 0.69 from Pacific cod, 0.88 for pollock, 0.69 for all redfish and 0.38 for sablefish (black cod).
For the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands, 0.83 of all groundfish were caught by non-Alaskan vessels; including a share of 0.70 cod, 0.91 pollock and 0.71 sablefish.
The 2020 off-vessel value of the Bering Sea groundfish catch was $ 718.2 million.
This is less of a loss in the Gulf of Alaska where in 2020 a share of 0.4 of all groundfish was caught by outside vessels, including 0.4 of all flatfish, 0.15 of cod, 0.47 Gulf pollock and 0.34 sablefish.
Out-of-state information along with an incredible array of user-friendly data is amassed by the Alaska Fisheries Information Network’s APEX reporting system with annual contributions from the Department of Fisheries and Game of Alaska, Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission and NOAA Fisheries.
It includes stock assessment and fishery assessment reports for all groundfish and crab species, number and types of vessels, wholesale and dockside values and prices, landings and fishing values, distribution of quota shares, harvest and processing employment data and much more. Find it at akfin.psmfc.org/
Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.