Alaska has for the first time canceled its snow crab fishing season in the Bering Sea after scientists discovered an unprecedented decline in the number of crabs. Climate change is likely the cause, reports Bloomberg.
“We’re still trying to figure it out, but certainly there’s very clear signs of the role of climate change in the collapse,” said Michael Litzow, shellfish assessment program manager at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which conducts an annual survey of the number of snow crabs in the Bering Sea.
The decision to cancel the season, announced by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Oct. 10, was a devastating blow to local fisheries in a state where the seafood industry is a cornerstone of the economy. According to NOAA, the commercial catch of snow crab alone in Alaska last year was $219 million.
The bad news did not end there. Officials also announced the cancellation of Bristol Bay’s red king crab season for the second year in a row due to consistently low numbers of crabs.
Alaska’s commercial crab fleet “is bracing for half a billion dollars in losses going into the second year of stock collapse,” according to a press release from the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers trade association, along with additional revenue losses for processors, support businesses, and communities.
The trade association represents about 60 vessels and 350 fishermen.
Alaska’s fisheries are in dire straits right now, and things aren’t going to get any better anytime soon.
“We’re going to have to let people go because there’s no work,” Andy Hillstrand said in a statement of his fishing boat F/V Time Bandit, which has been featured on the TV series Deadliest Catch, “and we’ve lost the ability to make money for the upkeep of the vessel.”