Unalaska joins emergency petition on tanner crab

An Unalaska fisherman prepares for tanner crab season. (Photo by KUCB)
An Unalaska fisherman prepares for tanner crab season. (Photo by KUCB)

This season, the unpredictable tanner crab population isn’t looking so good for Aleutian fishermen.

That’s what the state’s trawl survey indicated this summer.

But the City of Unalaska has joined an emergency petition urging the Alaska Board of Fisheries to take another look.

At a City Council meeting last week, Frank Kelty explained the survey showed low numbers for female tanners.

That’s led the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to consider serious conservation measures.

“The whole fishery could be shut down,” Kelty said.

But the problem isn’t affecting the whole fishery. Kelty said data indicates the eastern tanner stock is struggling with low female biomass, but not the western stock.

That’s why the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers association is sponsoring an emergency petition — to stop the entire fishery from closing when only half is at risk.

The Unalaska City Council voted unanimously to join the petition. Kelty said tanner season is critical for the community, which earns revenue from the fishery in taxes and fuel sales.

“We already have a snow crab fishery that’s possibly in jeopardy, and if we lose the bairdi fishery too … things are looking very bleak,” he said.

The City of St. Paul has also signed the petition, which was submitted to the Board of Fisheries last week. Now, crabbers will have to wait and see if the state takes public comment on how to manage the tanner fishery this season.

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