Trouble for red king crab

Results from this summer's eastern Bering Sea trawl survey is fueling fears of a painful cut in the catch limit for the state's most valuable crab.

The estimated biomass of legal-sized male Bristol Bay red king crabs is 15,412 metric tons, down 27.8 percent from the 2010 estimate. It's the fourth consecutive year the biomass has fallen.

The numbers are contained in a National Marine Fisheries Service draft technical memorandum now making the rounds. Deckboss reviewed the 117-page document.

The survey results suggest that a significant cut in the total allowable catch (TAC) could be forthcoming. A panel of crab managers and scientists will review the survey at a meeting set for Sept. 19-22 in Seattle.

Bristol Bay red king crab in most years is Alaska's richest crab harvest. Over the most recent 10-year period for which data is available, 2000-2009, the fishery averaged a dockside value of $68 million.

The red king crab TAC for last season was 14.8 million pounds.

Fishery managers are likely to announce around Oct. 1 what the TAC will be for the 2011 season, which opens Oct. 15.