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Bering Sea Crabbers Support Conservative Catch Limits

(Anchorage)  Bering Sea crabbers will be hauling up less king crab in their pots when fisheries begin next week - but they say they support the lower catches.

The annual catch quotas are based on extensive crab stock surveys done each summer by state and federal fishery scientists. Managers announced the catch limits last week.

The harvest for Alaska’s premiere crab fishery - red king crab at Bristol Bay - will be limited to just under 15 million pounds, a drop of 7.5% from last year.

The reduction came as no surprise, as the king crab stocks have been on a downward trend, said Edward Poulsen, spokesman for the trade group Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.

The news is better for Alaska’s biggest crab fishery – snow crab. That catch was boosted by 13% to more than 54 million pounds.

Crabbers were “appreciative” of the increase, Poulsen said, and hope the upward trend will continue as data show an abundant snow crab resource.

Bering Sea veteran Jim Stone said industry stakeholders might differ on some of the data, but “they applaud Alaska’s conservative stance on setting the harvest limits.”

The crabbers will continue to partner with state and federal managers to improve information on all Bering Sea crab fisheries, Stone said, in hopes of higher, sustainable catches in the future.

The combined value of the Bering Sea red king crab and snow crab fisheries in 2009 was $180 million at the Alaska docks.

Alaska’s Bering Sea crab fisheries open on October 15.

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