Industry News | October 19, 2010

Open Season in Alaskan Seas

The 2010 harvest season for Alaska’s largest crab fisheries opened Oct. 15 and will extend into March 2011.

The Alaska Bristol Bay red king crab harvest is set at 15 million pounds. This represents a decrease from last year’s harvest. Alaska king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) is the largest and most impressive of all shellfish, prized for its sweet flavor and rich tender white body meat.

The Alaska Bering Sea snow crab harvest is set at 54 million pounds, an increase from last year’s harvest. Alaska snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) has been the largest volume shellfish fishery in Alaska since the 1980s. Snow crab is known for its signature big clusters, and has a delicately sweet flavor with snowy white meat. Snow crab continues to offer great value.

The fluctuation in harvest levels point to Alaska’s ongoing practice of managing all of its fisheries to ensure their long term health and sustainability. State and federal fisheries managers continually adjust harvest limits based on the most current available scientific data—a key element within Alaska’s model of sustainability.

The history of commercial crab fisheries in Alaskan waters extends back to 1930. Today, Alaska fishermen continue the tradition and brave the icy waters of the North Pacific and Bering Sea to harvest Alaskan crab for consumers across the country and the world.

Crabbing (or pot fishing), the method for harvesting king and snow crab, can be dangerous work for Alaska fishermen. Steel traps or pots are baited with cut fish and dropped into the icy ocean. Buoys mark the location of each pot and its owner. At the proper time, judged by instinct and years of experience, the pots are hauled in, quickly emptied into the hold, re-baited, and returned to the ocean floor. The crab is soon processed and frozen, for year-round availability.

For more than 50 years, Alaska has been dedicated to sustainable seafood. It’s so essential to our way of life that our Constitution has a mandate that “fish … be utilized, developed, and maintained on the sustained yield principle.” The seafood industry is Alaska’s largest private sector employer. As a result, Alaskans understand the need to protect the fisheries and surrounding habitats for future generations. We’re proud of our leadership in sustainable management, which has led to an ever-replenishing supply of wild seafood for markets around the world.

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