Alaska’s snow crab season canceled for second year in a row as population fails to rebound

Jonathan Vigliotti

Gabriel Prout is grateful for a modest haul of king crab, but it’s the vanishing of another crustacean variety that has the fishing port in Kodiak, Alaska, bracing for financial fallout; for the second year in a row, the lucrative snow crab season has been canceled.

“We’re still definitely in survival mode trying to find a way to stay in business,” he told CBS News.

When the season was canceled last year, there was a sense of confusion among the Alaska crab fisher community. Now, a sense of panic is taking hold in the state’s fisheries, which produce 60% of the nation’s seafood.

“It’s just still extremely difficult to fathom how we could go from a healthy population in the Bering Sea to two closures in a row,” Prout said.

And while he is barely holding on, others — like Joshua Songstad — have lost almost everything.

“All of a sudden, now I’m at home with no income and really not much to do,” Songstad said.

The crisis first began in early 2022, after biologists discovered an estimated 10 billion crabs disappeared — a 90% plunge in the population.

“The first reaction was, is this real? You know, we looked at it and it was almost a flat line,” said Ben Daly, a research coordinator with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

A recent survey of the species showed little sign of a rebound.

“Environmental conditions are changing rapidly,” Daly told CBS News last year when the snow crab season was canceled for the first time ever. “We’ve seen warm conditions in the Bering Sea the last couple of years, and we’re seeing a response in a cold-adapted species, so it’s pretty obvious this is connected. It is a canary in a coal mine for other species that need cold water.”

According to new research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a marine heat wave linked to climate change impacted the snow crabs’ food supply and drove them to starvation.

Biologists hope this second round of suspensions will give the remaining snow crab population time to bulk back up.

But with the climate threat only growing, there’s concern the snow crabs, along with the industry that depends on them, will continue to shrink.

“I’m a fourth-generation fisherman,” Songstad said. “I would like to say that this is gonna be here for my kids, but the reality is we’re a dying breed and if we keep going the way we’re going, there’s not going to be any of us left.” 

Jonathan Vigliotti

2024-01-05 00:54:00 , Home –

Leave a comment