State rejects appeal to boost snow crab harvest

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2003

KODIAK (AP) -- Spurred by the furious harvest of snow crab in the Bering Sea, the Pacific Northwest Crab Industry Advisory Committee on Tuesday asked for an increase in the 23.69 million pound quota, but stock managers said no.

Gary Painter, chairman of the advisory committee, told the Kodiak Daily Mirror on Wednesday that the request for a change in the guideline harvest level was based on both the rate of catch and the catch per unit effort of snow, or opilio, crab.

He said the catch per unit was 84 percent greater than it was a year ago.

''This means the number of crabs per pot is higher than expected,'' he said. ''Also, fishermen are seeing large numbers of recruitment stock crabs that will be big enough to harvest next year.''

The proposal for a quota increase also went to Kevin Duffy, acting commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and to Denby Lloyd, supervisor of the Westward Region.

Lloyd, from his office in Kodiak, said that an adjustment to the guideline harvest level fell under the Department of Fish and Game jurisdiction and Fisheries Board members agreed.

On Wednesday, the department announced it would not make an in-season adjustment.

''The Bering Sea snow crab stock is on a rebuilding schedule,'' Lloyd said.

The National Marine Fisheries Service declared the stock overfished in 1999. The department does not want to go against the rebuilding plan or against the Fish Board harvest strategy, he said.

Department managers said adjustments for the 2003 snow crab season would not be consistent with their obligation to follow Fish Board strategy because there are no indications of errors in the preseason stock surveys.

The 2002 NMFS survey indicated significant numbers of large males north and west of St. Matthew Island, an area that is uncharacteristically free of ice this year. That, combined with good weather, has made it difficult to interpret catch-per-unit comparisons between years, according to the department.

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