Brisk snow crab fishery in Alaska's Bering Sea nears quota

The Bering Sea snow crab fishery is moving right along.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Unalaska reported 46 vessels registered on Monday, and 78 percent of the 54 million pound quota harvested.

Unalaska city natural resources analyst Frank Kelty said the fleet landed 5 million pounds last week. "It's going pretty quick. If they have a couple more weeks like that, it will be over with," Kelty said.

Processors posted an opening price of $2.15 per pound paid to fishermen, similar to last year, Kelty said.

Based on the opening price, which could increase with postseason bonuses based on sales, Kelty estimated the fishery's value at $116 million paid to fishermen for the little opilio snow crab.

The season got off to an earlier start late last year, with boats fishing in the northern region and delivering to processors in St. Paul in the Pribilof Islands to beat the ice, which has plagued the fleet in past years. But this year, ice has not been a problem and on Monday was reported still north of the crab grounds.

Southern processors, including Unalaska plants, started around the same time as usual, in late January and early February, Kelty said. "Same as always, because the plants down here were doing pot cod" (buying Pacific cod caught with crab pots), he said.


Also, the crab quality tends to improve and become meatier. "It gets better as the season goes along, the infill of the crab meat," Kelty said.

The snow crab is popular both in Japan and domestic markets, especially in buffet all-you-can eat restaurants in the Lower 48, said Kelty, recalling a recent trip to Las Vegas. "Every restaurant we went to had snow crab piled up," he said. While he said he couldn't be certain if it was an Alaska or Canadian product, "it looked our snow crab."

This story first appeared in The Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is republished here with permission.