November 02, 2022
The Bering Sea ice crab population has declined over the past five years, but this season the population has dropped.
As the Seattle Times reports, in 2018, about 3 billion mature snow crabs inhabited the Bering Sea, along with about five billion immature crabs.
But by the end of 2021, those numbers have grown to around 2.5 million and 6.5 million, respectively.
Alaska officials made the difficult decision to cancel the season's snow crab harvest for fear of completely wiping out the crustaceans.
The agency also canceled a fall harvest of Bristol Bay red king crabs (Paralithodes camtschaticus) due to low survey numbers.
Miranda Westphal, a field management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, called the decision "extremely difficult."
"It came after a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of tears. It was one of the hardest decisions we've ever made," she told Live Science.
What caused the Snow Crab Crash? The Seattle Times reported that the main culprit was almost certainly human-caused climate change.
Ice crabs thrive in the cold northern waters of the Bering Sea floor. For these crabs, water temperature isn't just a matter of comfort.
It plays an important role in their lifecycle. As seawater cools, it becomes less salty and less buoyant.