According to a National Marine Fisheries Service report issued Wednesday, the crab fishing fleet has landed 6.1 million pounds of king crab since the season opened Oct. 15. That’s 87 percent of the 7.05 million pounds allocated to individual fishing quotas.
No information was immediately available on the 783,000 pounds of crab reserved for community development quota fishermen.
“A lot of guys caught their crab fast,” said Tim Abena, who operates the Independent Crabbers’ Cooperative from Kodiak. “From what the guys said, there was a lot more crab out there than anyone expected.”
Kristen Deane, who represents the Advanced Harvester Cooperative, said she has heard similar things.
“It’s gone really fast,” she said. “They said the fishing was quick.”
Some crabbers also reported seeing lots of young crab, Abena said.
“It might be a sign for a healthy season next year,” he said.
This year’s red king crab quota was cut by almost half and is the second lowest since 2001, when 7.1 million pounds were taken.
Because of the lower quota and a weaker dollar compared to the Japanese yen — Japan is the primary market for red king crab — the per-pound price of red king crab is expected to reach a record high.
Jake Jacobsen, executive director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange, the largest crab cooperative in the state, said in an interview with KUCB-FM in Unalaska that the advance price for crab was set at about $9 per pound, and the final price will be higher than that. Last year’s price averaged $7.32 per pound delivered to Kodiak.
Heather Finch, Bering Sea management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Unalaska, said despite the smaller quota, 62 boats have fished for red king crab so far this season, compared to 65 last year.
“As far as catch rates are concerned, the (average crabs per pot) was 19 and this year it was 28,” she said. “It looks like it was a better catch rate.”
Finch cautioned that those figures are preliminary until the fishery ends.
“I’ve heard it from a lot of the fleet, but I can’t actually look at the data until the fishery is closed,” she said.
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at email@example.com.