The snow crab harvest in Alaska, USA has been cancelled. The reason is that the animal is said to have mysteriously disappeared from the waters there.
Reported CNN, Sunday (10/16/2022), scientists said overfishing was not the cause. The cancellation of the harvest was the first time in history.
Billions of Alaskan snow crabs have disappeared from the cold and dangerous waters of the Bering Sea in recent years.
The Alaska Fisheries Council and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council announced last week that the snow crab population in the Bering Sea had fallen below the regulatory threshold for open fishing.
The snow crab population is shrinking from about 8 billion in 2018 to 1 billion in 2021, according to Benjamin Daly, a researcher with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
“The snow crab is by far the most abundant of all commercially caught Bering Sea crab species. That includes drastically reduced spawning,” Daly said.
Alaskan king crab fisherman (Photo: Corey Arnold)
The Bristol Bay red king crab harvest will also close for the second year in a row. Officials cited overfishing as the reason they canceled the season.
Between surveys conducted in 2021 and 2022, adult male snow crabs declined by about 40%, with an estimated 45 million pounds remaining throughout the Bering Sea.
But the Bering Sea crab’s over-caught population is prompting conservation action.
“We call it overfishing because of its size. But it’s not overfishing that’s causing the numbers to drop,” said Michael Litzow, director of the laboratory for NOAA Fisheries.
Litzow said human-caused climate change was an important factor in the crab’s disappearance.
Snow crabs are a cold-water species and are mostly found in areas where the water temperature is below 2 degrees Celsius, Litzow said. As the oceans warmed and sea ice disappeared, the oceans around Alaska became inhospitable to the species.
Temperatures around the Arctic have warmed four times faster than the rest of the planet, scientists report. Climate change has triggered the rapid loss of sea ice in the Arctic region, particularly in the Alaskan Bering Sea, which in turn has increased global warming.
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