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Crabbers Blame Climate Change for Collapse of The Red King!

A 200 million dollar industry is on the brink of collapse because of overfishing and putting greed ahead of the health of the ocean. According to The Washington Post (Andrew Jeong),”The federal government now designates snow crabs as overfished. The stock of some red king crabs, the largest of the commercially harvested crabs in size, is considered “below the target level” by the NOAA in some waters. Last year, Alaska closed king crab season for the first time since the 1990s.

Scientists have expressed suspicion that warmer temperatures in recent years have been responsible. Alaska’s summers and oceans have become warmer, scientists say, resulting in a significantly higher seasonal loss of sea ice. The U.S. Environment Protection Agency said in a recent report that rising temperatures may have forced species such as snow crabs further north or into deeper seas.“In the Bering Sea, Alaska pollock, snow crab, and Pacific halibut have generally shifted away from the coast since the early 1980s,” the EPA wrote. “They have also moved northward by an average of 19 miles.”

A December 2020 study co-written by Alaska fishing officials also found that the decrease in the geographical size of snow crab habitats could be linked to warming. ”Yet the general consensus is it is greed that is behind the industries losses. Officials canceled the fall Bristol Bay red king crab harvest and, for the first time on record, are also holding off on the winter harvest of snow crab, according to multiple reports.

The decision comes after stark recent population declines of the animals. Data from an NOAA eastern Bering Sea survey shows a 92% decline in overall snow crab abundance from 2018 to 2021, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game confirmed to USA TODAY. An 83% decline occurred from 2018 to 2022, as some small crab entered the population in 2022, according to the department's Division of Commercial Fisheries. Human-caused climate change is a significant factor in the crabs' alarming disappearance. Snow crabs are cold-water species and found overwhelmingly in areas where water temperatures are below 2 degrees Celsius. Those restaurants that do have snow crabs in limited supply are selling them for astronomical prices! Experts say when supplies are plentiful, the snow crab -- considered the queen of crabs, typically fetches around $29 a pound. Snow crab legs are typically much less expensive than king crab legs.

Snow crabs it was thought previously were sustainably managed and responsibly harvested, making them an excellent seafood choice. Red King crab legs are currently $90.00 a pound and due to go up even higher! But the pinnacle of all crab legs are the wild-caught Alaskan red king crab, which command a hefty price tag of nearly $180 for 2 pounds. Arnie Dzelzkalns, the head seafood buyer at online retailer Crowd Cow, says the reason for the higher prices is simple: supply and demand.“This past year, there was a moratorium. The season was closed completely because stock levels were too low,” he told CNBC’s Make It. “And the international markets are really seeking out Alaskan red king crab. It’s kind of the best out there.”

“The real shocking part is the total and complete collapse of the snow crab fishery which no one expected last year when it happened, and a complete closure this year was equally as shocking,” Gabriel Prout, co-owner of the Silver Spray and whose business relies heavily on the crab fishery, said to Alaska Public Media. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lists snow crabs as “significantly below target population level,” and a “rebuilding plan is being developed for the Alaska snow crab stock.” They are also overfished but are not subject to overfishing based on catch data from 2020.Disease or rising water temperatures due to climate change has likely contributed to the 90% population drop, leaving an estimated one billion crabs missing over two years! Boston has over 20 seafood restaurants that specialize in King Crab expect to see this local favorite absent from the menus this year in most of these restaurants!


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