Tanner crab fishery in Bering Sea still possible

There is hope yet for at least a limited bairdi Tanner crab fishery in the Bering Sea.

The Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fishermen reports that the Board of Fisheries has placed an additional item on the agenda of its January meeting in Kodiak, proposal 278.

“This proposal would potentially allow the Bering Sea District commercial Tanner crab fishery west of 166 west longitude to be opened at low levels of Tanner crab abundance,” according to the board.

The season was canceled due to the number of female crab not reaching the threshold necessary for a fishery during the summer trawl survey.

“I’m fairly positive there will be at least a small bairdi fishery,” in January, February, and March, Ruth Christiansen, science adviser to the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers told the paper.

Another fisherman’s advocate reported fishermen seeing far more bairdi than the survey indicated. Intercooperative Exchange Executive Director Jake Jacobsen complained of a “disconnect” between what the fishermen saw and what the survey detected.

Fish and Game biologist Miranda Westphal in Unalaska said she couldn’t comment until the Alaska Department of Fish and Game analyzes observer bycatch data from the red king crab fishery.

If the fishery goes forward it would be welcome news for the fleet, which saw the opilio, or snow crab quota drop from 40.6 million pounds last season, to 21.5 million.

The red king crab quota also was cut about 15 percent.

That season has pretty well wrapped up, with 97 percent of the quota caught. Fishermen reported a record dock price of $9.50 per pound, and great fishing. They also said the crab were averaging 7.2 pounds each, up from the usual 6.5 pounds.

A bairdi fishery would also take some of the pressure off of the cod fleet.

Boats usually fish bairdi right after king crab. With no bairdi fishing at least for the rest of the year, more fishermen than usual were considering filling the gap by fishing for Pacific cod with crab pots, according to Krista Milani, of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Unalaska.

Last week, she said about 20 boats were showing interest, but as it turned out, only seven vessels decided to go pot codding.

Late-year conditions do not favor cod fishing, since the fish are harder to catch because they are more scattered. Prime time for Pacific cod is in January when the fish are schooled up, she said.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist46s8@gmail.com.