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Significant Crab Pot Loss Prompts Regional Advisory Committee Proposal

Norton Sound red king crab. Photo: Jenn Ruckel, KNOM

Preceding the start of the Norton Sound commercial crab fishing season, the Northern Norton Sound Advisory Committee discussed the large crustacean, and other fish topics, at length last week.

On Wednesday, the AC’s Board Chair, Charlie Lean, kicked off the meeting by recapping the Alaska Board of Fisheries’ decisions regarding the regional group’s proposals. One month ago (Jan. 15-19), the Board of Fisheries deliberated on five proposals from the Northern Norton Sound AC regarding subsistence and commercial fishing. The Board agreed not to touch the Tier 11 subsistence chum salmon fishery, as the original proposal was withdrawn.

The Subdistrict 1 Norton Sound chum salmon management plan was repealed with amendments. (For the full language of the changes, click here).

The Board of Fisheries also instructed the Department of Fish & Game to report back to the Board with more information regarding management in the Port Clarence District. For now, the guideline harvest range for that district will remain in place.

During the latest Advisory Committee meeting last week (Feb. 12), two proposals addressing crabbing in the Norton Sound region were carried forward unanimously. After hearing Justin Leon of Fish & Game say more than 400 crab pots had been lost since 2015, and 49% of them went adrift last year, the AC decided to restrict the amount of pots being used in Norton Sound. With a limit in place, AC member Brandon Ahmasuk hopes fishermen will be more mindful of the placement of their crab pots.

According to Charlie Lean, the Board of Fisheries’ standards deem 10% as the annual acceptable rate of crab pot loss for a district.

The second proposal approved by the Northern Norton Sound group seeks to change the length of the commercial crabbing season. The AC proposed starting on February 1 and ending on April 30. These motions still have to be passed or denied by the Alaska Board of Fisheries before they are finalized.

Lean says the Board won’t deliberate on the two crab-related proposals until 2020.

Image at top: Norton Sound red king crab. Photo: Jenn Ruckel, KNOM.