Crabbers seek solutions as harvest closures impact business

Alaskan crab fishers say the closure of the Bering Sea snow crab and Bristol Bay red king crab shows the need to invest in industry sustainability now.

SEATTLE — An amount of emergency relief is being sent to help crab farmers affected by the historic closure of the Bering Sea snow crab fishing and the Bristol Bay red crab harvest in Alaska.

However, the Washington-based fisherman says more long-term care, research and action is needed to preserve the industry as a sustainable way of life for small businesses for generations.

Mark Casto owns the fishing boat Pinnacle and says he’s been fishing since graduating from high school in 1986.

“I grew up in it, when I was a kid, I used to do it when I was growing up, it was in my blood and it was just my way of life,” said Casto.

He’s been grappling with the same teammates for years – some decades – and they’ve become a team that can predict each other’s next move. When the Bering Sea snow crabs were cancelled, they were scattered – all forced to find other ways to make a living during the season.

“A few years ago I saw some items coming up for tender, so we’ve been bidding for salmon for a few years and this year with the closure of king crab and snow crab we’re bidding on some fish. snow, just enough to keep the boat busy, get it up there and then we’ll make a little Bairdi,” said Casto. “But it’s a trickling effect. It affects everyone, from lurers to shipbuilders to butchers who have been supplying boats for years.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says red king crab has been closed in Bristol Bay after a multi-year decline due to climate change. But the closure of the Bering Sea snow crab was even more shocking, with NOAA citing the aftermath of the 2019 marine heatwave sometimes referred to as “blob”.

“Not everyone agrees on what happened to the crabs, what happened, but there are many different causes that contribute to the decline in crab populations and one of them is climate change. ,” said Lance Farr, a recently retired crab captain. owner of Kevleen K. “Climate change is real, and we’re like a canary in a coal mine, we think, about fisheries in the United States, and we just need to think about the ways that we can make climate-ready fisheries.”

Casto’s crew is making a lot of money this season — some tender cod, some Dungeness fishing — but it can’t compare to the work that has fed his family for decades. .

The Alaska Bering Sea Crab Association represents affected crab catchers, many of whom live in Washington. They are grateful that the state of emergency has been declared to help offset the costs incurred by crab fishermen this season, but they are concerned that inactive crab pots will be a problem after this year unless when there is a big action. It believes a three-pronged approach to crisis management is needed — including prompt financial relief, flexible and responsive management, and continued support for science and research.

“We’re very grateful to the Congressional Delegation for funding us for research and other things and that’s what has to happen,” Farr said. “We need research to be able to get a little better handle on what’s going on and be able to do something that we need to do in the future in a way that the climate is changing.”

However, Farr remains concerned about what existing crabmers will cost in the coming years – and hopes attention will continue to focus on the issue.

“Not all boats will make it through this,” Farr said. “It’s going to be a financial disaster, so we don’t think this fishery is going to be back up next year, it’s going to be a couple of years, so we’re going to have really tough years before that.” things get better.”

Crab catchers like Casto believe part of the solution is more cooperation between fisheries. There are concerns about other forms of fishing affecting the health and safety of crabs – although conversations can be difficult.

“I hope all fisheries can work together and look together to the future and how we can keep our businesses running,” said Casto.

As for how the closures are affecting Puget Sound in the meantime, crab catchers said the impact is also spreading from fishermen to other businesses.

“It hits everyone, from the people of the bay to the shipbuilders to the butchers,” said Casto. “We need to look to the future and come up with some better science and figure out how to survive during this difficult time.” Crabbers seek solutions as harvest closures impact business

Edmuns DeMars

Edmund DeMarche is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Edmund DeMarche joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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