Tanner crab season opens to high expectations

Frigid February fishing in Alaska features crabbing from the Panhandle to the Bering Sea, followed in March by halibut, black cod and herring.

Southeast crabbers will drop pots for Tanners on Friday, and they’re expecting one of the best seasons ever. Fishery managers said they are seeing “historically high levels” of Tanners with good recruitment coming up from behind.

The catch limit won’t be set until the fishery is underway but last year’s take was 1.27 million pounds (504,369 crabs), which weighed 2.5 pounds on average. Crabbers know they will fetch historically high prices based on the recent pay-out for westward region Tanners.

Prices to fishermen at Kodiak, Chignik and the South Peninsula reached a jaw dropping $8.50 per pound for the week-long Tanner fishery that ended in late January and produced 1.8 million pounds of good looking crab.

Back at Southeast, crabbers also can pull up golden king crabs starting Friday. The harvest limit is 75,300 pounds, up from 61,000 pounds last year. The crabs generally weigh five to eight pounds on average and last year paid out at $11.55 per pound at Southeast docks.

A Tanner crab fishery kicks off in Prince William Sound starting March 1 with a 61,800-pound catch limit. The fishery could run through March 31 unless the quota is taken earlier.

Out in the Bering Sea, crabbers have taken 18% of their one million pound Tanner crab quota and 33% of their 5.6 million pound snow crab quota. The 2022 snow crab catch is down 88% from last year’s 45 million pound quota and has been officially classified as “overfished” by federal managers.

Further north, a through-the-ice February red king crab fishery at Norton Sound was canceled when local buyers opted not to purchase any to protect the declining stock in that region.

In other Alaska fisheries, federal fisheries managers increased the halibut catch limit for this year for all regions except Southeast, where the catch limit of 3.53 million pounds is down only slightly from last year’s harvest cap of 3.51 million pounds.

In all, the Alaska commercial halibut harvest limit for 2022 was set at 21.51 million pounds, up from 19.6 million last year. The average halibut price paid to Alaska fishermen in 2021 was $6.40 per pound, with a fishery value topping $109 million.

The abundance of Alaska sablefish (black cod), one of the priciest fish, continues to soar in all regions. Combined Gulf and Bering Sea catches for 2022 total nearly 76 million pounds, a 32% increase.

The sablefish and halibut fisheries both run from March 6 to December 7.

Some good news for Southeast king salmon trollers: Their U.S.-Canada treaty harvest allocation for 2022 is 193,200 Chinook salmon, an increase of 44,700 from 2021.

Finally, the 2022 forecast for the Copper River sockeye salmon commercial harvest is just 716,000 fish. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game predicts the total sockeye run will come in at 1,432,000 fish, 34% below the 10-year average, pushing down the expected commercial catch.

Seafood tips

Do you crack the crab shells with a rolling pin before cooking them, or have a special brine for smoked black cod?

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has launched a #AlaskaSeafoodHacks program to find some of the best tricks and tips for preparing fish and shellfish.

“As consumers are buying and cooking seafood more than ever, ASMI is bringing together chefs, culinary masterminds and those who cook seafood the most — Alaskans and members of the fishing industry — to provide easy recipe inspiration and cooking tips, while encouraging home cooks to share their own #AlaskaSeafoodHacks on social media,” said Ashley Heimbigner, ASMI communications director.

Through March 4, the #AlaskaSeafoodHacks campaign will showcase new hacks from experts and home cooks. Innovative and unique hacks might be recreated by culinary experts and chefs and featured on Alaska Seafood’s social channels and website.

Lawmakers will get

to sample the best

A Feb. 26 legislative reception in Juneau of seafood dishes, hosted by United Fishermen of Alaska and Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, is the second leg of the Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition from November where only first place winners and a Seattle People’s Choice were announced at Pacific Marine Expo.

All others, including the grand prize winner, are kept under wraps until the Juneau event, where attendees also will select their favorites.

Top winners get a free trip to the big Seafood Expo North America in Boston in March. They include Echo Falls Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon/Tapas Sliced Mediterranean by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Alaska Grown Ribbon Kelp by Seagrove Kelp Company of Craig, Wild Alaska Pollock Jerky by Neptune Snacks, Deep Blue Sea Bath Soak by Waterbody of Wrangell, Bristol Bay Sockeye by Alaskan Leader Seafoods, whose Alaska Black Cod also was selected as the Seattle People’s Choice.


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