Bering Sea Crab Fleet Expands Use of “Green” Fishing Gear
(Anchorage) Alaska’s Bering Sea crabbers are at the forefront of using fishing gear that protects the king crab and snow crab stocks, and the environment.
Since the 1970’s, all crab pots in Alaska have been required to use special panels and twines that bio-degrade over time to allow crabs to escape if pots are lost at sea.
To add even more protection, for the past decade boats targeting golden king crab have voluntarily used large mesh gear that sorts out females and small crabs while the pots are on the ocean floor. Golden king crabs are caught primarily in deeper waters along the Aleutian Islands. Currently, all of the vessels are using large mesh gear in the golden king crab fishery, which began in mid-August.
Many other Bering Sea crab boats are getting onboard with “greener” gear, said Edward Poulsen, spokesman for Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, a harvester group. Vessels are installing sorting systems that use water flumes, portable mechanized hydraulic tables or conveyor belts.
“Previously, when pots came aboard the crabs were often dumped into big holding bins or totes until they could be sorted. These improved systems mean the crabs can be carefully sorted right away with much less handling. It significantly reduces crab mortality,” Poulsen explained.
The Bering Sea crabbers credit the slower paced, catch share program for boosting the use of more efficient, eco-friendly fishing gear. The crab catch share program, which began in 2005, ended the frenzied free for all that dubbed the Bering Sea fisheries “the deadliest catch.” The program has resulted in a dramatic reduction in gear on the grounds. In the red king crab fishery, for example, pot usage has dropped 76%, from 50,000 to 12,000 pots.
By fishing co-operatively, the crab fleet uses far less fuel, thereby cutting its carbon footprint by more than half.
With catch shares, the Bering Sea crab fisheries have proven to be safer, more efficient and far more economically stable for Alaska harvesters, processors and crab-dependent communities.
Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers is a harvester alliance that represents all crab fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. The group is active in research, marketing and crab advocacy at all policy levels. The Crabbers partner with Alaska seafood processors and coastal communities to improve the industry for the benefit of all. www.alaskaberingseacrabbers.org