Alaska/Pacific Coast

Snow Crab Fishery Likely in Alaska This Year With Positive News from Survey; King Crab Will Be Down
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton and Peggy Parker – September 19, 2017
Signs point to a snow crab fishery again this year in Alaska.  Following extremely an extremely poor stock survey in 2016, the ADF&G opened the Alaskan Opilo (Snow Crab) fishery with an allowable catch barely above the legal threshold.

Many in the crab industry, and their customers, feared that a negative survey this year could lead to a complete shutdown. So the results of the latest Eastern Bering Sea crab survey appear to offer some good news.

However, the survey data on red king crab was disappointing, with a continuing decline in overall biomass, suggesting a poor outlook for red king crab in 2017.

The North Pacific Council’s Crab Plan Team begins a three day meeting in Seattle today with new data from the summer surveys in the Bering Sea. The snow crab survey shows indications of good recruitment in coming years, and several positive factors for the population in the current year.

However, the raw survey data are preliminary, and are analyzed before being translated into stock population models.  Then once the population models are established, the ADF&G makes a final decision about TAC’s, and whether a fishery is above its biological threshold for commercial fishing.

This decision will not be made until the first or second week of October.

In 2016, the ADF&G set a TAC of 21.57 million pounds.  In their announcement, the agency said “The lower 2016/17 TAC reflects continuing declines in survey biomass for both mature male and female snow crab and the high proportion of old shell crab in the exploitable population. In addition, fishery performance has been declining since the 2007/08 season; with the 2015/16 catch per unit effort being the lowest since crab rationalization began in 2005/06. “

Snow crab increased over last year’s survey results in nearly all categories, but overall levels of abundance and biomass are still below 20-year averages. The following are the major changes from 2016 in the survey data.

The mature female snow crab biomass and abundance estimate showed the highest increase, from 818 million last year to 2,087 million this year. The number of immature females has also increased from last year’s 2,132 million to 2,496 million. Biomass for juvenile females also increased to 66,240 tons, the highest in nine years.This increase over the past six years provides further hope for strong recruitment in upcoming years.

For males, the overall male biomass increased from 63,210 tons to 83,960 tons; but this increase was in immature males.  Mature Males went from 21,960 tons in 2016 to 20,520 tons in the 2017 survey.  This decline was the only decrease noted in the survey data.

The abundance of immature male snow crab in the eastern Bering Sea, at 3,542 million, is the highest it’s been since 1995. As for biomass, at 188,849 tons, it’s the highest since 1997.

The estimated biomass of legal-sized male snow crab is 52,149 tons and abundance is 151.7 million crab, or 4% of the total male abundance. This biomass remains much lower than the 20-year average legal male snow crab biomass of 126,464 tons.

Mature male snow crab abundance, at 57.8 million crab, is the lowest on record this year. Mature male snow crab are those that are equal to or greater than 93mm or 3.7 inches, legal males are 78 mm long or just over 3 inches.

The estimated biomass of legal-sized male snow crab is 52,149 tons and abundance is 151.7 million crab, or 4% of the total male abundance. This biomass remains much lower than the 20-year average legal male snow crab biomass of 126,464 tons.

The analysis of this survey and what it means will be taken up by the plan team at the meetings this week.  But from a market perspective, there appears to be more positive factors regarding the snow crab stock in 2017 than there were in 2016.  So although the total TAC is not possible to estimate, and may end up being similar to last year, the other health indicators of the stock look promising, so the chances of there being no fishery at all this year appear to be quite small.

Tanner (bairdi)
Tanner crab abundance levels continue sloping downward. A combined abundance of eastern and western Bering Sea legal male bairdi reached only 56.7 million this year, compared to last year’s 73.1 million.

East of 166 degrees W, there are 21.8 million legal males compared to the western area’s 34.9 million. Both areas show a drop from 2016 — the eastern stock dropped from 20.2 million last year and the western stock dropped from 51.3 million.

The 2017 eastern area biomass of legal male Tanners is estimated at 15,614 tons, above the 20-year average biomass of 12,148 tons.

There are three other bright points for bairdi crab.  First, female bairdi crabs, both mature and immature, are increasing in numbers in the eastern area. That’s important because the final catch limit is based in part on the abundance of female crab, so an increase from 9.1 million in 2016 to 15.4 million in 2017 is good news.

The second positive point is that West of 166 degrees, immature female bairdi crabs have more than doubled from 42.6 milion last year to 101.1 million this year.

And finally, abundance of immature male bairdi crab increased from 75.2 million in 2016 to 98.8 million this year, providing some hope for recruitment. Unfortunately, the abundance of mature females in the Western district has dropped from 42.6 million to 35.6 million.

The 2017 estimated biomass of legal Tanner/bairdi crab in the western area at 21,288 tons was well above the 20-year average biomass of 16,213 tons, despite the drop from last year’s biomass of 31,252 tons.

Bristol Bay Red King Crab
The summer survey for red king crab in the Bristol Bay area was disappointing across the chart. Legal male abundance is at its lowest point in five years, at 6.4 million. That’s down from last year’s 7.1 million.

The red king crab fishery is managed based on spawning biomass, however, which requires both males and females. This year’s combined biomass for mature males and females is 49,526 tons, compared to 58,851 tons last year. However, both immature males and immature females are on the rise with a ten percent hike in immature males and a 50 percent increase in the biomass of immature females. A good sign for 2018.

Landings in 2017 for Bristol Bay red king crab were 7.6 million pounds.

In 2017, the average bottom water temperature during the first survey leg (4 June to 20 June) was 1.7 °C, which was colder than the average mean bottom water temperature during the same time period during the previous 4 years.

The authors noted the fluctuation in population abundance and biomass of the seven commercial crab stocks from 1975 to 2017. Overall commercial crab mature male biomass decreased from approximately 300,000 tons to below 100,000t in the mid-1980s, increased to just below 500,000 tons in the early 1990s due to increases in snow and Tanner crab, leveled out around 200,000 tons between 2005 and 2015, but dropped to approximately 100,000 tons in 2017.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1076154/Snow-Crab-Fishery-Likely-in-Alaska-This-Year-With-Positive-News-from-Survey-King-Crab-Will-Be-Down

Environment/Science

Warm waters off West Coast has lingering effects for salmon
Washington Post by Phuong Le - September 17, 2017
SEATTLE — The mass of warm water known as “the blob” that heated up the North Pacific Ocean has dissipated, but scientists are still seeing the lingering effects of those unusually warm sea surface temperatures on Pacific Northwest salmon and steelhead.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/energy-environment/warm-waters-off-west-coast-has-lingering-effects-for-salmon/2017/09/17/884541fc-9bc9-11e7-b2a7-bc70b6f98089_story.html?utm_term=.a3e9a3406124

Mine critics find more local government support
KCAW by Ed Schoenfeld – September 14, 2017
Sitka and Ketchikan’s borough assemblies passed resolutions in the past two weeks asking the federal government to protect Alaska fisheries from transboundary mines.
https://www.kcaw.org/2017/09/14/mine-critics-find-local-government-support/

Old Fish Few and Far Between under Fishing
University of Washington by Michelle Ma – September 14, 2017
Like old-growth trees in a forest, old fish in the ocean play important roles in the diversity and stability of marine ecosystems. Critically, the longer a fish is allowed to live, the more likely it is to successfully reproduce over the course of its lifetime, which is particularly important in variable environmental conditions.
https://alaska-native-news.com/old-fish-few-and-far-between-under-fishing-pressure-30749

Labeling and Marketing

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute: Marketing Update
September 2017
Alaska Seafood Commercial Fishing Video Contest, ASMI Germany Participates in High-end Gastronomy Festival, ASMI Retail Conducts Third Promotion with FreshDirect, ASMI Seafood Technical Graduate Students Wrap up Internships, ASMI Partners with Non-profit Culinary School, Sustainability Director Speaks at 2017 Annual Sustainability Summit…
http://mailchi.mp/alaskaseafood/alaska-seafood-marketing-update-asmi-leaders-speak-at-women-in-seafood-2655645

Federal Register

Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; Individual Fishing Quotas for Pacific Halibut and Sablefish in the Alaska Fisheries
A Notice by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 09/19/2017
The Department of Commerce, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.
https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/09/19/2017-19888/proposed-information-collection-comment-request-individual-fishing-quotas-for-pacific-halibut-and

FYI’s

Pink salmon found in odd places near Homer
KBBI by Aaron Bolton – September 12, 2017
Pink salmon are showing up in odd places around the Homer area. Fish can be seen swimming through Beluga Slough in the middle of town, a saltwater marsh with no historical salmon returns.
http://kbbi.org/post/pink-salmon-found-odd-places-near-homer

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September 19, 2017