The Juneau area personal-use red and blue king crab fishery will close at 4 p.m. New Year’s Eve , according to a Thursday release from the Alaska Department of Fish &Game. By that time, Fish &Game projects, fishers will have caught the 1,965 crab allocated to the fishery.
High participation and fishing luck resulted in a “shorter than anticipated” fishery, ADF&G said. About 1,100 people obtained permits, Assistant Area Management Biologist Scott Forbes said.
That’s a lot of permits, Forbes said, considering 1,300 permits were issued for the five-day summer king crab fishery. Many more people have boats in the water and are prepared to fish in the summer season than winter. Forbes said Fish &Game was surprised to see the turnout.
“I think there were a lot of factors,” Forbes said of the high turnout. “One was that the catch was good right off the bat. We have social media and stuff right now that allows word to travel so quickly.”
Another factor was the warm December weather. Skiffs run better in warm weather and more people in small crafts were able to get on the water safely this month.
The fishery was scheduled to run until March 31 or until the quota was reached. Fishing lasted seven weeks. It was the first time the winter king crab fishery had been open in six years.
Forbes sent an informal email to permit holders a few weeks ago to gauge success. ADF&G doesn’t have many tools to measure harvest rates for personal-use fisheries. In years past, Fish &Game made cold calls to permit holders to gauge harvest rates and estimate when a quota may be reached.
When ADF&G extrapolated from the results of Forbes’ email survey, it showed fishers would likely catch the quota at or on New Year’s Eve. There’s a “slim to none” chance ADF&G will reopen the fishery this winter. That would only occur if the number of crab tallied on permits turned in to ADF&G comes in well under estimates.
Juneau’s king crab fishery has been boom and bust in recent history, Forbes said, so the department is taking a conservative approach to management. The department would like to manage the fishery in a way that allows it to open every year and not have a large harvest one year and a closure for several years.
Permit holders are asked to turn in their permits to the Douglas ADF&G office at their earliest convenience. The hard deadline to turn in permits is March 31, but Forbes said it helps fishery managers to have them in sooner than later.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.