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Citing Low Numbers, ADFG Closes Small Tanner Crab Fishery In Eastern Aleutians

Chionoecetes_tanner_or_bairdi_bairdi_crab.jpg
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikimedia Commons
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The Eastern Aleutian District tanner crab fishery is closed this winter.

The small commercial fishery often opens in January, with two or three local boats harvesting bairdi in state waters around Unalaska and Akutan islands. 

But just like last year, the state's trawl survey indicated low numbers of mature males, forcing managers to close the 2020 season.

"It can either be that they didn't find the crab or that the crab just aren't there," said biologist Miranda Westphal of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "We choose err on the side of caution."

"There's probably some crab in the water still," she said. "We're not concerned about this stock, but it's not enough to commercially harvest."

Managers have also closed the much larger Bering Sea tanner crab fishery as a result of low abundance. 

While that population is distinct from the Eastern Aleutian stock, Westphal said both are subject to natural boom-and-bust cycles that have been made even more chaotic by warming ocean temperatures.

"A lot of our crab populations are depressed right now," she said. "Conditions in the ocean have not been kind to shellfish at all."

Still, she said the trawl survey showed more promising numbers for juvenile tanner. That means there could be an Eastern Aleutian opening in the coming years as the young crab mature.

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