Crabbing closed, but not quite

Published on Thu, Oct 18, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Crabbing closed, but not quite

By Meg Olson

The state department of fish and wildlife (DFW) closed the local sport crab season October 15 when preliminary data suggested sport crabbers had already caught their share, but another look at the data could lead to a reopening of the season.

“We had a 400,000 pound recreational quota and the catch record cards this year. We contracted a survey group to contact catch record card holders and determine the amount of crab that was caught. It indicated the recreational harvest through the end of August was at 430,000 pounds,” said DFW shellfish specialist Norm Lemburg.

This is the first year the DFW has required sport crabbers to keep a record of their catch on a catch card. The department plans to use the data to better manage the resource and set conservation goals. However, the program still has some kinks. “There were some questions about the sampling method for the survey,” Lemburg said, “so we did another.” The second survey came up with only 282,000 pounds of crab harvested by recreational crabbers, so the department is looking at reversing Monday’s closure and could reopen the fishery by this weekend. Lemburg added that crabbers have had a bountiful season so far, with a regular harvest of very large crab.

Commercial crabbing, which opened October 1, closed last week as local crabbers rocketed their way to the 1.6 million-pound quota set for non-tribal fishers. “They reached the million pound mark at record setting pace,” Lemburg said. This year crabbers opted to rave a portion of their quota for later to take advantage of potentially higher prices. “What they did was decide last year, rather than take the quota all at one time, they would split it into two seasons – 75 and 25 percent of the quota. They reached their 75-percent mark on October 9,” Lemburg said. The department is now analyzing records of crab sales to get a more accurate picture of how much crab was caught and could revise the amount left in the quota based on the results. “If there’s more crab out there than we originally thought and an adjustment is justified, then we will have one,” Lemburg said. He added tribal fisheries managers were going through a similar process for tribal crab harvest and the two groups would meet next week to discuss when and how to reopen commercial crabbing. “We’ll work with local crabbers to see how they would like the season to continue,” he said.
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