NATIONAL NEWS

Why have billions of snow crabs disappeared from Alaskan waters?

Oct 16, 2022, 2:39 PM

The Alaska snow crab harvest has been canceled for the first time ever after billions of the crusta...

The Alaska snow crab harvest has been canceled for the first time ever after billions of the crustaceans have disappeared from the cold, treacherous waters of the Bering Sea in recent years. (Danita Delimont/Alamy)

(Danita Delimont/Alamy)

(CNN) — The Alaska snow crab harvest has been canceled for the first time ever after billions of the crustaceans have disappeared from the cold, treacherous waters of the Bering Sea in recent years.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries and North Pacific Fishery Management Council announced last week that the population of snow crab in the Bering Sea fell below the regulatory threshold to open up the fishery.

But the actual numbers behind that decision are shocking: The snow crab population shrank from around 8 billion in 2018 to 1 billion in 2021, according to Benjamin Daly, a researcher with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“Snow crab is by far the most abundant of all the Bering Sea crab species that is caught commercially,” Daly told CNN. “So the shock and awe of many billions missing from the population is worth noting — and that includes all the females and babies.”

The Bristol Bay red king crab harvest will also be closed for the second year in a row, the agencies announced.

Officials cited overfishing as their rationale for canceling the seasons. Mark Stichert, the groundfish and shellfish fisheries management coordinator with the state’s fish and game department, said that more crab were being fished out of the oceans than could be naturally replaced.

“So there were more removals from the population than there were inputs,” Stichert explained at Thursday’s meeting.

Between the surveys conducted in 2021 and 2022, he said, mature male snow crabs declined about 40%, with an estimated 45 million pounds left in the entire Bering Sea.

“It’s a scary number, just to be clear,” Stichert said.

But calling the Bering Sea crab population “overfished” — a technical definition that triggers conservation measures — says nothing about the cause of its collapse.

“We call it overfishing because of the size level,” Michael Litzow, the Kodiak lab director for NOAA Fisheries, told CNN. “But it wasn’t overfishing that caused the collapse, that much is clear.”

Litzow says 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, Litzow says. As oceans warm and sea ice disappears, the ocean around Alaska is becoming inhospitable for the species.

“There have been a number of attribution studies that have looked at specific temperatures in the Bering Sea or Bering Sea ice cover in 2018, and in those attribution studies, they’ve concluded that those temperatures and low-ice conditions in the Bering sea are a consequence of global warming,” Litzow said.

Temperatures around the Arctic have warmed four times faster than the rest of the planet, scientists have reported. Climate change has triggered a rapid loss in sea ice in the Arctic region, particularly in Alaska’s Bering Sea, which in turn has amplified global warming.

“Closing the fisheries due to low abundance and continuing research are the primary efforts to restore the populations at this point,” Ethan Nichols, an assistant area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, told CNN.

Stichert also said that there might be some “optimism for the future” as a few, small juvenile snow crabs are starting to appear in the system. But it could be at least three to four more years before they hit maturity and contribute to the regrowth of the population.

“It is a glimmer of optimism,” Litzow said. “That’s better than not seeing them, for sure. We get a little bit warmer every year and that variability is higher in Arctic ecosystems and high latitude ecosystems, and so if we can get a cooler period that would be good news for snow crab.”

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

 

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

A paddle boarder tows an inflatable unicorn on a temporary lake in Death Valley on Thursday, Feb. 2...

Ty O'Neil, John Locher and Stefanie Dazio

Kayakers paddle in Death Valley after rains replenish lake in one of Earth’s driest spots

Kayakers have been paddling in one of the driest places on Earth after a series of storms battered California’s Death Valley and replenished Lake Manly.

3 hours ago

(Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)...

Associated Press

Toyota recalls 280,000 pickups and SUVs because transmissions can deliver power even when in neutral

The recall is to fix a transmission problem that can let the vehicles creep forward while in neutral.

17 hours ago

The defendants are accused of stealing software used to train Apache helicopter pilots....

Haley Britzky and Sharif Paget, CNN

2 National Guardsmen killed after military helicopter crash in Mississippi

Two National Guard members died after a helicopter crashed Friday afternoon during a training flight in northeast Mississippi.

19 hours ago

FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018 photo, containers holding frozen embryos and sperm are stored ...

Associated Press

Facing backlash over IVF ruling, Alabama lawmakers look for a fix

Lawmakers began scrambling for ways to protect Alabama in vitro fertilization services after multiple providers paused services in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos could be considered children under a state law.

22 hours ago

Beguiling Joshua trees and intriguing rock formations helped draw millions of vistoris to Joshua Tr...

Forrest Brown, CNN

The most visited National Park Service sites in 2023 are …

See what Utah National Park proved to be the most popular in 2023.

24 hours ago

FILE - The residence where a former funeral home owner kept a deceased women's body in a hearse for...

Associated Press

A former funeral home owner has been arrested after a corpse lay in a hearse for 2 years

A former funeral home owner accused of hiding a woman's corpse in the back of a hearse for two years and hoarding the cremated remains of at least 30 people has been arrested, authorities said.

24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Why have billions of snow crabs disappeared from Alaskan waters?