Commercial salmon fisheries in Southeast are looking to be a bust this year, but that’s not the case for Dungeness crab. This summer’s harvest ended up being the second highest on record. But the value of the fishery was not near a record breaker.
Fishermen brought in 5.81 million pounds of crab in a commercial season that ran from mid-June to mid-August.
Joe Stratman leads crab management in Southeast for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
“What was taken this summer is more than double the previous ten year average,” he said.
The summer harvest was so good that it’s higher than nearly all other full-season harvests, which also include the fall and winter fisheries. This year was only topped by the record year of 2002-2003.
Managers knew that it was going to be a good season after the first week, when fishermen brought in a record 1.51 million pounds. There were also more fishermen than usual participating in the fishery this summer, with 192 permit holders fishing.
But the value of the fishery was less than many other years. This summer, the average price was $1.67 per pound. That’s about a dollar below the ten-year average. And this year’s total value of $9.81 million was about three million less than last year, when the average price was $3.01 per pound.
Stratman says it was still a good value year, but it could have been far better if prices were closer to normal.
“Total value-wise, it exceeds the previous ten-year average due to the fact that the harvest poundage was so high, but the average price of a $1.67 this year is less than the 10-year average.”
The state doesn’t track individual weights of Dungeness crab, but Stratman says fishermen reported the crab were high quality this summer.
“I have heard, anecdotally from fishermen, that individual weight on the crab and crab size was larger than usual,” Stratman said. “By every indication, I heard that crab quality was quite good.”
With the summer season ending close to the record, managers predict that the full season has a chance to break the record. Using figures from the start of the season, they estimate a total season harvest of 6.61 million pounds. To break the record, the harvest has to surpass 7.3 million pounds from the year 2002-2003.
“It’s possible,” Stratman said.
The fall season opens on October 1 for all of Southeast. Most of the region will close November 30.