Once the quota of 37,260 pounds of crab is reached today, the Norton Sound red king crab CDQ Fishery is set to close for the season. As of Sunday, over 40 Norton Sound residents have delivered about 71% of the quota to the Norton Sound Seafood Products (NSSP) fish plant, which is Nome’s CDQ fishery.
Jim Menard is the Area Management Biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He says if the NSSP fish plant meets its quota of crab by 9:00pm tonight, this will have been a quick winter crab fishing season for the region.
“They did jump on the crab fast this year, the fishermen were right on things. And last year, we finished up on April 21st, so we are finishing a month earlier this year. They were fast on the crab, which is a good indication that the crab were there in the nearshore waters,” said Menard.
Overall, Menard says the population of Norton Sound red king crab is continuing to be sustainable.
“Yeah, it’s been very healthy, and we’ve been very sustainable. Last year, we projected we had a GHL and final harvest was about 500,000, just over 500,000, and this year, the GHL was set at just under 497,000. So we’re looking pretty stable for many years here in Norton Sound,” Menard explained.
The GHL, or guideline harvest level, is determined by a federal management plan that’s given to the Department of Fish and Game. Then, the local CDQ fishery is allowed to take about 7.5% of that harvest level.
So far this season, 43 commercial crab permit holders participated in delivering the red crustacean to the fish plant, receiving a record high price for their catch, $7.75 per pound.
Menard says the number of issued permits has increased and could be due to a rule change that limited permit holders to 20 pots each.
“So, that was the first time this regulation went into effect for the winter fishery. In the summer, they’re allowed 40, but previously in the winter, there was never a limit on the number of pots that could be put out. And for the CDQ fishery, last year, we had 22 deliver, and this year, we’ve had 43 so far deliver in the CDQ,” Menard recalled, “So, that was one of the effects of limiting how many pots they could have: instead, just a lot of people became permit holders.”
Two weeks from today, subsistence crabbing will begin in the Norton Sound region. And once the summer crabbing season starts, Menard says the next trawl survey of the crab population, which happens every three years, will be completed as well.