ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Board of Fisheries unanimously approved a plan Saturday to rebuild the Pribilof Island blue king crab fishery. The plan halts fishing until a sustainable annual harvest can be assured.
The board ruled that stocks of mature male and female blue king crab must reach 13.2 million pounds for two consecutive years before harvests can resume.
"We chose a harvest strategy recommended (by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game), but said we'd like to revisit it in March 2005 and consider any new information, including crab rationalization," said board chairman Ed Dersham of Anchor Point.
Dersham was referring to a controversial federal plan to end competition for Bering Sea crab and divvy up the harvest to fishermen, processors and ports.
"It looks like we have a very sick resource, and we have to do something very dramatic," said board member Rupe Andrews of Juneau.
Some crab fishermen hoped the rebuilding plan would allow for a minimum half-million-pound harvest during the rebuilding process.
A conservative harvest strategy is necessary to assure protection of the stock, said Arni Thomson, executive director of the Alaska Crab Coalition, told the board.
The rebuilding plan goes now to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council which will determine next week in Anchorage if the plan meets requirements of federal law.