Alaska snow crab season canceled for second year in a row as population fails to recover

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Gabriel Prout is grateful for a modest haul of king crab, but it’s the disappearance of another variety of crustacean that has the fishing port of Kodiak, Alaska, bracing for the financial consequences; for the second year in a row, the lucrative snow crab season It has been canceled.

“We’re definitely still in survival mode trying to find a way to stay in business,” he told CBS News.

When the season was canceled last year, there was a sense of confusion among Alaska’s crab fishing community. Now, a sense of panic is gripping the state’s fisheries, which produce 60% of the country’s seafood.

“It remains extremely difficult to understand how we could go from a healthy population in the Bering Sea to two closures in a row,” Prout said.

And while he can barely hold on, others, like Joshua Songstad, have lost almost everything.

“Suddenly, I find myself at home, with no income and not much to do,” Songstad said.

The crisis began in early 2022, after biologists discovered that about 10 billion crabs disappeared, a 90% drop in the population.

“The first reaction was, is this real? You know, we looked at it and it was almost a flat line,” said Ben Daly, research coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

A recent study of the species showed few signs of recovery.

“Environmental conditions are changing rapidly,” Daly told CBS News last year when the snow crab season was first canceled. “We’ve seen warm conditions in the Bering Sea in recent years, and we’re seeing a response in a cold-adapted species, so it’s pretty obvious this is related. It’s a canary in a coal mine for other species. “They need cold water.”

According to new research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a Marine heat wave linked to climate change It affected the food supply of the snow crabs and led them to famine.

Biologists hope this second round of suspensions will give the remaining snow crab population time to recover.

But as the climate threat continues to grow, there are concerns that snow crabs, along with the industry that depends on them, will continue to decline.

“I’m a fourth-generation fisherman,” Songstad said. “I would like to say this will be here for my children, but the reality is that we are an endangered species and if we continue the way we are going, there won’t be any of us left.”

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