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As US Crab Industry in Bering Sea Crumbles, Russian Crab Firms Not Affected

CC0 / Pixabay / Snow crab
Snow crab - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.10.2022
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - Russian fishing firms told Sputnik they are not facing any issues harvesting crab in the Bering Sea unlike US fishermen that are seeing disruptions to their supply in the same region.
"In 2022, the Russian Crab group of companies has 434 tons of opilio and more than 100 tons of bairdi available for fishing in the subzones of the Bering Sea," a spokesperson for a Russian Crab company told Sputnik. "Thus, at present, snow crab condition in the Bering Sea does not cause concern to our fishermen."
In 2022, the total allowable catch of opilio snow crab in the Karaginsky subzone of the Bering Sea increased by 128 tons and the harvest of bairdi snow crab increased by 79 tons, the spokesperson said.
Scientists with the Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO) closely monitor conditions of population of valuable biological resources in the Bering Sea and make recommendations based on resource studies to correct the Total Allowable Catch of crab in the region, the spokesperson said.
Norebo Management Company, one of the largest fish holding companies in Russia, also indicates the Russian fishing industry seems to have no issues with snow crab harvests in the Bering Sea.
"I haven’t heard about any drastic decline in snow crab stock abundance in Russian part of the Bering Sea," Norebo Management Company spokesperson Sergey Sennikov told Sputnik.
Last week, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game scrapped the snow crab season in the Bering Sea due to a population decline in the region. It also said the red king crab season was going to be closed for the second year in a row.
Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers Executive Director Jamie Goen told Sputnik the US fishing industry is expected to suffer more than a billion dollars in losses after Alaska shut down its snow crab season in the Bering Sea for the first time in the country's history.
"We're estimating the economic losses now that we've had two years of either closed fisheries, or record low harvests, at over 500 million US dollars that our fishermen are losing. And then when you consider the processors and fishing communities and support businesses, like fill docks and shipyards, we're estimating that impact is over a billion US dollars," Goen said.
Alaska Snow Crab - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.10.2022
Alaska Cancels Snow Crab Season For The First Time Ever After 1 Billion Disappear
Last year's snow crab harvest in the Bering Sea was 5.6 million pounds, the smallest in over 40 years.
Goen said the historic decision by Alaska's Department of Fish and Game will likely sink family businesses considering there is no immediate federal relief program to aid US fishermen in tight circumstances. Alaska has some 60 vessels in its fleet that conducts snow crab fishing in the Bering Sea, she added.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in a press release that efforts to understand the decline of the crab population in the region is underway.
Goen said climate change may be causing the decline of the snow crab population in the Bering Sea.
"In 2018, we had record high recruitment, which means there are a lot of small crab out in the ocean, but also the Bering Sea was warmer that year, so the crab needed to burn more calories and have more food to survive and there were so many of them out there they think the stock just collapsed on itself," Goen said.
Moreover, Goen said the red crab population in the Bering Sea has been in a steady downward decline for 12 to 15 years now, but that issue is not directly climate related.
"They're not sure what's happening," Goen said. "So the [red crab] females are full of eggs and they're fertilized eggs. They release them, but then they never grow up to be bigger crab to harvest by our fishermen. So something's happening in the middle there."
Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers and other US fishermen have been calling for additional conservation measures, like those implemented by Russia and Canada, to protect the crab population in the region.
"When they're molting and mating crab get in a soft shell condition, so they're very vulnerable to high mortality, say if a patrol net comes through and runs over them, there's high mortality," Goen said. "My understanding is Russia and Canada have protections for crab when they're molting and mating, and we don't have that in the US. That's one of the things our fishermen have been advocating for that we could manage them better, to protect them, to help them rebuild."
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game said it understands the closing of this season's snow crab season in the Bering Sea will have substantial impacts on US harvesters, industry, and communities, but it was a necessary measure for long-term conservation and sustainability of crab stocks in the area.
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