Fifty-six vessels are registered and out in the rough waters of the Bering Sea in pursuit of the lucrative Bristol Bay red king crab harvest and more may be coming, in the wake of a partial government shutdown that delayed the fishery several days.
State fisheries biologists at Dutch Harbor said today that high winds and rain greeted most of the boats rushing to begin their harvest over the last few days, after the National Marine Fisheries Service employees returning from furloughs were quick to issue required individual fishing quota permits.
Alaska’s Bristol Bay red king crab fishery officially began on Oct. 15, but most harvesters were forced to remain in port until they received those permits.
Pre-season, some 80 vessels were registered for this year’s fishery and last year a total of 64 participated in the fishery.
Vessels affiliated with western Alaska’s community development quota association did not need those IFQ permits and began fishing for their quota share on Oct. 15.
Mark Gleason, executive director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, praised NMFS Alaska administrator Jim Balsiger and NMFS staff for issuing the IFQ within 24 hours of returning to the office, saying it helped to minimize market impacts that likely would have resulted had the season opening been delayed any further. Gleason said the crabbers are confident that their customers in Japan and the United States would get the highly coveted king crab in time for holiday celebration sales. Gleason also expressed appreciation for members of Congress from Washington state and Alaska for their efforts to protect the interests of harvesters and coastal communities who are economically dependent on that harvest.
Industry officials said the delay in beginning the multi-million dollar fishery had cost vessel owners about $1,000 a day.
Harvesters and processors are now working against a deadline of Nov. 14 to have crab headed for Japan and China on containerships.
In Anchorage owner Skip Winfree of 10th and M Seafoods said he anticipated receipt of his first shipment of Bristol Bay red king crab around Nov. 15.
Prices are still undetermined.