UNALASKA (AP) -- Bering Sea snow crab fishermen have accepted a price of $1.85 a pound -- 45 cents higher than last year -- and will start fishing Wednesday.
The reason for the higher price is because demand is strong and inventories are down this year, said Gary Stewart, president of the Alaska Marketing Association, which represents fishermen in price negotiations with processors. Last year, fishermen received $1.40 a pound.
A total of 195 boats are signed up for the 23.7 million pound quota with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The number of boats is up from 189 last year.
Participation has been declining along with quotas. Back in 1994, Fish and Game records show 273 boats chasing the 1.2-pound-average opilio Tanner crab, marketed as snow crab. Fish and Game biologist Forrest Bowers said this year's quota is among the lowest ever.
U.S. Coast Guard cutters and aircraft will standby to rescue fishermen, if necessary, from the often treacherous waters of the Bering Sea. Lt. Joseph Higgins Coast Guard told fishermen Friday that favorable weather conditions are forecast for the fishery's opening.
Bowers said sea ice conditions also favor fishermen. He said the sea ice hasn't been as far north since 1986. He said a summer trawl survey found large numbers of market-size male crab in areas normally covered by ice during colder winters.
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