The Alaska and North Pacific Fisheries Stewardship Council announced last week that the Bering Sea snow crab population had fallen below the regulatory threshold for continued fishing. The numbers behind this decision are truly shocking. The number of snow crabs has decreased from about 8 billion in 2018 to 1 billion in 2021.
“Snow crabs are already the most abundant of the commercially caught Bering Sea crabs. So what is happening is truly shocking. Not only the adult crabs, but the female and juvenile crabs as well. mysteriously lost,” said Benjamin Daly, an expert on fisheries in Alaska.
The red king crab season in Bristol Bay is also at risk of being delayed for the second year in a row.
Officials cited overfishing as the reason they canceled the fishing season. It is even thought that the number of crabs caught is more than the number of crabs born in the wild. Therefore, the ban on fishing is expected to help restore the number of this species.
However, the researchers say that overfishing could not have caused the snow crab population to decline so quickly and drastically. Instead, it is thought that environmental changes led to the sudden decline of the species.
Snow crabs live in cold waters and are abundant in places with temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius. However, as the oceans warm and the ice disappears, the waters around Alaska are becoming increasingly unsuitable for this creature.
Studies also show that the temperature and water environment in the Bering Sea is increasingly changing. Water temperatures around the North Pole have also warmed at a rate four times faster than the rest of the planet. Climate change causes dramatic melting of ice in the Arctic, especially the Bering Sea, thereby contributing to accelerating global warming.
However, the closure of mining operations also contributed significantly to restoring the snow crab population. The researchers found many small individuals, but they need several more years to mature and contribute to this population increase.
“It’s an optimistic sign, anyway. It’s much better than not seeing any individuals. The Earth is warming every year, and that change is especially dramatic in the Arctic ecosystem. stopping climate change, helping the earth to stop warming is good news for humanity and also for snow crabs,” said Ethan Nichols, a biologist with the Alaska Fisheries Administration.
The scientific name of the snow crab is Chionoecetes opilio. They are famous for their large size and delicious taste. The most delicious part of this creature is the legs and claws, which are very large and contain a lot of meat. This crab is quite similar to king crab but is slightly smaller and has fewer spines on its body. The disappearance of snow crabs makes global gourmets less likely to enjoy a specialty, at least this year.