Southeast crabbers hauling in big Dungeness catch

Dungeness crab is currently worth about $3 a pound. (Creative Commons photo by Kevin Cole)

Dungeness crab is currently worth about $3 a pound. (Creative Commons photo by Kevin Cole)

It’s been a big summer season for commercial Dungeness crabbing in Southeast Alaska with a big harvest, a high price and a bump in crab boat numbers in the Panhandle.

That’s a turnaround from last year’s summer season, which was shortened by one week for the first time ever, due to low catches. It’s not the case this year. The fleet will have a full two-month summer season and is already close to surpassing the 2013 catch for the combined summer and fall seasons.

Crabbing time is set based on catches in the first week in mid June. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game uses that first week’s catch to estimate the total season harvest. Joe Stratman is department’s lead crab biologist for the region.

“This season the initial full season harvest estimate is 6.46 million pounds, which is the largest full season harvest estimate ever produced,” Stratman said. “Pounds landed in the first week of the fishery, included in this estimate, were 1,077,000 pounds by 150 permits.”

That’s more than double the first week’s catch from last year and it’s almost double the 10-year average for the first week. As of July 18 the catch was just under 2.5 million pounds. Last year’s combined summer and fall catch was just under 2.6 million pounds.

Not only is it a big catch, it’s worth more this year. The average price at the docks is around $3 a pound. That’s up about 50 cents a pound from last year and the highest price in over a decade. Stratman said this year’s catch has already beaten last year’s for value. “The total value of this year’s fishery to date is $7,325,000. This value to date already exceeds the previous full season’s total value of $6,437,000.”

Usually the fleet catches 80 percent of Southeast’s total Dungeness haul during the summer season and the remaining 20 percent in a fall season during October and November. The summer season is open though August 15.

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