Southeast Alaska sees closure of crab season

Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 9:14 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Dungeness crab season in Southeast Alaska closed at 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 30 and the closure of the Golden King crab season is Dec. 1.

The closures in Southeast Alaska, are standard end of season closures unlike the closures for King crab and Snow crab in the Bering Sea. In October, the state of Alaska cancelled the fall King crab season and the Winter Snow crab season in the Bering Sea, earlier than normal, due to low populations for both crabs. However, in Southeast Alaska, there are “no red flags,” said Adam Messmer, a shellfish biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

According to Messmer, crab populations in the Southeast region, have been stable and are often cyclic. For the Dungeness crab, the populations increases and decreases about every 5 years. In 2021, Southeast Alaska had a larger than normal harvest of Dungeness crab, but this year’s harvest has been smaller than normal. Compared to the Bering Sea harvest the Southeast harvest tends to be smaller. “Our Dungeness... average about three million pounds a year,” said Messmer. The Tanner crab harvest brings in about one million pounds per year.

While the population of Dungeness crabs and other crabs in the Southeast have shown long term stability, both Golden and Red King crab populations have shown low numbers in the Southeast area. But, regrowth of those populations is looking good according to Messmer. “There’s definitely signs of the population increasing for the Golden King crab and the Red King crab too,” said Messmer.

The growth in King crab populations has allowed the region to open more locations for harvest. “The King crab fishery had closed areas for a number of years and we’re starting to open some of those area back up and add a few pounds to them each year,” Messmer said.

While it will take a few years for the King crab populations to recover, primarily due to their long lifespan and slow maturation, the Department of Fish and Game is hopeful for the future of crab fishing in Southeast Alaska.