Forecast for 2002 Opilio crab season brighter than 2001 season

Posted: Thursday, September 06, 2001

KODIAK (AP) -- The Alaska Fish and Game Department said Wednesday the 2002 Opilio crab season will open with a quota of nearly 31 million pounds, up from 27.3 million in 2001.

The announcement was good news for fishermen, who had feared the Bering Sea Opilio crab season would not open next year.

The annual crab survey showed the numbers of mature Opilio crabs has increased 21 percent since last year's survey. Fish and Game officials attributed the increase to a rise in the number of mature males.

Of the 2002 quota of 30.82, more than two million pounds are earmarked as Community Development Quota, which is available to Western Alaska communities. The remaining 28.51 million pounds are available to the general fishery.

The Opilio season is set to open Jan. 15.

In past years, the number of participants has hovered around 230 vessels, according to numbers from the Crab Rationalization and Buyback Group.

This is the second year that the Opilio stocks have shown an increase. Wayne Donaldson of Fish and Game told the Kodiak Daily Mirror he is hopeful this is the beginning of a trend.

''It looks like things have turned the corner,'' Donaldson said.

The value of the 2001 fishery was $36 million, according to rough estimates by Fish and Game. The department based its calculations on an average dock price of $1.55.

The quota for the 2001 general fishery was 25.3 million. When the season was closed, however, final counts placed the total harvest around 23.5 million pounds, roughly 2 million pounds under the quota.

But in 2000, the fleet overshot the quota by more than 7 million pounds.

Fish and Game also announced Wednesday that the Bering Sea Tanner crab stocks are not high enough to support a commercial harvest. The department plans to leave the fishery closed for the 2001 season.

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