KODIAK (AP) -- The Bristol Bay crab fleet enjoyed a bountiful start this week but the fishery is already leveling off to levels below last year's harvest, state Fish and Game officials said.
''The harvest started out slightly faster than last year, but now it's not proceeding at about the same pace,'' said Forrest Bowers, a Fish and Game crab management biologist.
About 245 crabbers have been fishing in calm seas since Monday afternoon.
During the first 24 hours, 63,000 pounds of crab were harvested, compared to 14,000 pounds last year, Bowers said.
By the end of the second 24-hour period, the fleet had caught a total of 1.4 million pounds, compared to 1.6 million pounds last year. And by the end of the third 24-hour fishing period, the fleet caught 3.4 million pounds, compared to 4 million pounds in 1999.
''We're lagging behind last year, but one would expect that with the smaller guideline harvest level,'' Bowers said.
The latest harvest numbers, which are cumulative, had not been tabulated as of Thursday night, he said.
The quota this year is 7.7 million pounds, compared to a little more than 10 million pounds for the 1999 season.
The fleet will likely get a 24-hour closure announcement unless catch reports, made every 12 hours, indicate fishing has picked up dramatically, Bowers said.
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