Commercial crab fishermen in Juneau may get just a few days of fishing before the season closes, according to officials at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which is anticipating a three- to four-day red king commercial opening around town.
Red king crab season opens Saturday at noon. The state has set a commercial harvest limit of 225,000 pounds of crab for Southeast. The limit for waters around Juneau is 47,000 pounds, said Gretchen Bishop, Southeast shellfish project leader for ADF&G's Commercial Fisheries Division.
The Juneau limit is a little higher than last year, but the overall Southeast limit is down from 250,000 pounds last year, Bishop said.
That's a fairly low limit. ADF&G doesn't open the crab fishery at all unless the limit is higher than 200,000 pounds.
Doug Mecum, director of the Commercial Fisheries Division, said crab abundance is down in some parts of southern Southeast, but that stocks are healthy around Juneau.
Bishop said the three- to four-day opening is only a preseason estimate. Last year's commercial season lasted eight days. She said 72 commercial fishermen have registered to harvest king crab, down slightly from last year's numbers.
Prices are also down slightly.
Fisherman Albie Morin said he got $7.25 per pound from his buyer last year.
"Now my guy is talking maybe a buck less, but it depends on the quality of the crab, too," Morin said.
Eric Norman, general manager of Taku Fisheries, said Bering Sea crab fishermen were getting $5.05 per pound, but ex-vessel prices - or price processors pay to fishermen - would be a bit higher in Juneau.
"We ship the crab live out of Juneau on Alaska Airlines and it's in Seattle in 12 hours, going into tanks and things down there. It definitely can command a higher price," he said.
Norman said Taku paid $6.50 to $6.75 last year, but will be paying less this year. Taku has about 15 boats, and anticipates processing 30,000 to 60,000 pounds of crab this season, he said.