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Norton Sound Red King Crab Fishery Opens

Red King Crab. Photo: The Children's Museum of Indianapolis via Creative Commons.

The Norton Sound’s red king crab fishery opens Wednesday, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists announced the region’s harvest rate will be slightly below the statewide rate.

Area manager Jim Menard with ADF&G said models calculate a total of 3.2 million pounds of harvestable crab in the Bering Sea. Area fishermen will be about to catch 12 percent of that biomass this summer, slightly below the state’s rate of 15 percent.

“The management level we’ve set is about 383,000 pounds, and that’s based on the model accepted at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting,” which met in Nome earlier this month, Menard said.

That level includes “both the summer, and the next coming winter,” Menard added. “Including the 34,000 pounds caught this past winter—[and] projecting that we would catch about the same amount next year—we would be at what’s called the allowable biological catch. So that’s why we set the level at 12 percent.”

Fish and Game sets those catch rates with models that estimate the total red king crab biomass in the Norton Sound region. The raw data for those models comes from an extensive trawl survey conducted every three years.

This year is a trawl year, and Menard said the agency plans to send out its research ship in mid-July for several weeks, weather permitting.