Alaska Golden King crab harvest is underway in the Bering Sea!
National media has been focused on declining populations and closures for the Red King and Snow crab fisheries, but an entirely different story is unfolding for Alaska Golden King crab with a thriving crab population and decades of steady fishing quotas. The closures have raised questions from our customers, the media, and even our Deadliest Catch fans about what these closures mean for Alaska Golden King crab.
Why have some Alaska crab fisheries closed while others have remained open?
In Alaska, the yearly Total Allowable Catch (TAC) or quota for each species is set after a scientific and data-driven stock assessment program. NOAA Fisheries works closely with state, federal and industry partners to ensure sustainable fisheries for Alaska. When they find specific crab populations declining, closures and reduced TAC give impacted populations time to recover and repopulate. The 2022 in-season stock assessment of Alaska Golden King crab showed that the population remains at healthy, sustainable levels.
Why didn’t the Alaska Golden King crab fishery close? Will it be next?
Stock assessments for Alaska Golden King crab have shown a stable population for decades, resulting in a reliable TAC each year. We asked Captain Rip Carlton of the F/V Patricia Lee what makes Golden King crab so sustainable:
“In the 35 years that I have been fishing Golden King crab, we have never seen a closure – not once. We have the best fishery management in the business and have spent years investing in the science through the Golden King Crab Research Foundation and our close partnership with ADFG. I have fished all over the world and I would say that Alaska Golden King crab is the most sustainable King crab fishery out there. It helps that Goldens have a very deep and very remote habitat. We harvest Red King crab from a few hundred feet below sea level but with Golden Kings we are hauling from 2,000 feet below. They are really hard to catch!”
Captain Chad Hoefer of the Erla-N agrees:
“Golden King crab have a very deep and unique habitat in the Aleutian Trench. We know from monitoring the gauges we send down in our pots that temperatures in their habitat change quickly as the tides wash in and out of the Bering Sea throughout the day. We wonder if this ability to adapt to temperature change has also helped Goldens weather some of the heat events of the past few years better than other species. The Erla-N is one of only five boats that harvests Golden King and we work closely with the fishery group on research, stock surveys and gear improvements to keep Golden King crab at healthy levels.”
What impact will the closures have on the Alaska crab market?
The closure of the Bristol Bay Red King crab fishery combined with the current ban on importing Russian seafood will mean reduced supply of King crab in the coming year. Alaska Golden King crab has been gaining steadily in awareness with consumers since its name change in 2017 with many retailers and restaurants replacing their Red King crab placements with Golden King crab in the face of declining Red King quotas and rising prices. Mark Pedersen, CEO & President at Keyport LLC adds:
“When it comes to King crab, consumers want to buy product from Alaska. Even before the closures we saw demand for Golden King crab rising due to its price point and sweeter taste profile. With the Bristol Bay Red King crab fishery closed last year and again in 2022, we see that trend continuing.”
Still more questions?
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