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Tanner crab season ends in Unalaska, Opilio rolls on

Jim PaulinDutch Harbor Fisherman

Unalaska’s local Tanner crab fishery closed Saturday, while snow crab rolled on.

The 35,000-pound Tanner quota was expected to be fully harvested, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Unalaska.

This was the first time in three years that the Unalaska area was opened, and it performed better than the last time, in 2010, when it was closed early because of low numbers of crab in each pot, according to Fish and Game biologist Britta Baechler.

“We were pretty pleased this year. We let the fleet take all 35,000 pounds,” Baechler said.

Six small boats were registered for the fishery in the Unalaska/Kalekta Bay section of the Eastern Aleutian District. They were Biloxi Queen, Good Deal, Northern Light, Tina Baby, Benjamin G, and Tina Baby. They made a total of 27 deliveries.

Only one processor was buying the Tanners with an average weight of 2.5 pounds. The daytime-only fishery between 6 a.m. and 6:59 p.m. favors small local boats. The pot limit was 42 per vessel. The fishery opened Jan. 15. The Makushin/Skan Bay and Akutan sections were closed for the 2013 season.

Meanwhile, the big boat opilio snow crab fishery continued in the Bering Sea. On Monday the fleet had caught 19 million pounds out of a 66.35 million pound quota, with 57 boats registered. Three boats had checked out. The quota breaks down to 59.7 million pounds in individual fishing quotas, and 6.6 million in the community development quota fishery.

Unlike last year when ice-covered fishing grounds bedeviled the fleet, it hasn’t been a problem this season, Baechler said.

“Looking at the ice picture, it doesn’t seem to be an issue,” she said.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment in Unalaska conducted safety inspections of the snow crab fleet, according to Lt. James Fothergill. The inspection insures that boats are not overloaded with crab pots, as too many can destabilize a vessel and cause it to sink. An average snow crab pot weighs about 700 pounds.

All the boats did well on the inspections, conducted by one or two Coast Guard inspectors, and typically lasting between 30 to 45 minutes, Fothergill said.

“Every boat that’s fishing, we’ve done,” he said. And for some boats it was the second time around, since inspectors also came aboard during last year’s Bristol Bay red king crab season, Fothergill said.

This story first appeared in The Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman. Jim Paulin can be reached at jpaulin@reportalaska.com.