ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Bering Sea snow crab harvest is set to close on Saturday, with fishermen set to collect about $50 million for their catch.
While the crab price is about double last year's 90 cents a pound, the quota is just 14 percent of the catch in 1999, when the fleet collected nearly $175 million for 194 million pounds of the hard-shelled delicacy.
Fish biologists say snow crab numbers are so depressed there probably won't be a harvest next year in the Bering Sea at all.
That's a major change from last year, when the fishery was the state's second largest in terms of catch value, behind only the Bristol Bay red salmon harvest.
Total crab catch through Thursday at 6 a.m. was 16 million pounds, closing in on the harvest guideline of 28.5 million pounds, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
There are 231 vessels on the grounds pulling a total of about 25,000 pots a day, according to department figures. With each pot holding a hundred crabs or so, the quota goes quickly.
Harvest for the 24 hours ending at 6 a.m. Thursday was 5.4 million pounds, the department said, so the closure was set for noon on Saturday.
The fishery began last Saturday, and so it will end after just a week of furious work. Last year, the fishing started on the normal day, Jan. 15, and ran more than two months, until March 22.
This year's fishery was postponed until this month because ice was covering much of the fishing area in early January.
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