State fisheries managers at Dutch Harbor have announced a partial extension of the eastern sub-district of the Bering Sea snow crab fishery through May 31.
At this point, however, there is only one vessel on the grounds and it is uncertain how many would return at this point if ice conditions diminish.
The emergency order announced yesterday will allow waters of the eastern sub-district between 171 degrees west longitude and 173 degrees west longitude to remain open through May 31. Meanwhile, waters east of 171 degrees west longitude will close at midnight on May 15.
Record sea ice coverage significantly reduced available fishing grounds throughout a large portion of the snow crab season and as a result, nearly 25 percent of the snow crab total allowable catch was not harvested through yesterday.
Assistant area management biologist Britta Baechler said about 77 percent of the allowable harvest of snow crab, a total of 68.14 million pounds, had been taken. That included 62.6 million pounds of individual fishing quota and 5.54 million pounds allocated to the community development quota fisheries.
The total 2012 allocation from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is for more than 88 million pounds of snow crab, including 80 million pounds to the IFQ fishery and 8.9 million pounds to CDQ groups.
That compares with last year’s total allowable catch of 54 million pounds, all of which was harvested.
Baechler said that only one vessel was on the grounds in the second week of May, with the rest of the snow crab boats at Dutch Harbor, Akutan and King Cove.
It was uncertain whether those vessels planned to return to the grounds if ice conditions receded before May 31.