Approval of the SAFE report and 2021/22 OFL and ABC
The Council approved the Final 2021 BSAI Crab SAFE report and specified OFLs and ABCs for eastern Bering Sea (EBS) snow crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, EBS Tanner crab, Saint Matthew blue king crab and Pribilof Island red king crab for the 2021/2022 fishing season. The Council took this action following a review of the affected crab stocks as well as the BSAI Crab Plan Team’s (CPT) Report from their September 2021 meeting. The Council’s motion adopting the 2021/2022 OFLs and ABCs for these five BSAI crab stocks is provided here.
In addition to approving the SAFE and OFLs and ABCs, the Council noted its support of the detailed recommendations of the SSC, as practicable, and encourages the Alaska Fishery Science Center to consider extending the NMFS trawl survey into deeper waters by adding stations to the standard Bering Sea trawl survey design. The Council supports continued efforts to move all assessments to GMACs and ongoing work by state and federal scientists to evaluate changing stock distributions in relation to currently defined stock boundaries
BSAI Crab Stock Status
The final 2021 BSAI Crab SAFE report describes how the status of a crab stock is determined based on a system of five tiers that stocks fall into, based on the amount of information that can be generated in the stock assessment. For most of the crab stocks managed by the Council, data are available to support estimation of stock biomass (B), so stock status compares current biomass (i.e., B2021) to target (BMSY) and threshold (½ BMSY) biomass (see Figure below). The final 2021 SAFE report indicates that Aleutian Islands golden king crab, and Pribilof Islands red king crab and EBS Tanner crab are all above BMSY, while Bristol Bay red king crab, and Norton Sound red king crab are below BMSY but above ½ BMSY, and EBS snow crab, Pribilof Islands blue king crab, and St Matthew blue king crab are below ½ BMSY.
EBS snow crab, Saint Matthew blue king crab and Pribilof Islands blue king crab stock are all below the minimum stock size threshold (MSST) for these stocks and means that they are all overfished. Pribilof Islands blue king crab have been overfished since 2002, while Saint Matthew blue king crab were declared to be overfished in October 2018. Under the rebuilding plan, the fishery will remain closed until the stock has growth to a level that allows for an opening under the State of Alaska’s harvest strategy.
EBS snow crab biomass was below the threshold in 2021 and was declared overfished by NMFS on October 19, 2021. A rebuilding plan for EBS snow crab will be developed by the Council and must be implemented within two years Discussion of the rebuilding plan will begin at the January 2022 CPT meeting and the Council will develop draft alternatives for the rebuilding analysis in February 2022.
Due to ongoing concerns with the status of the Bristol Bay red king crab (BBRKC) stock and the closure of the directed fishery in 2021/2022, the Council took additional actions with respect to BBRKC. The Council will evaluate the potential impacts and benefits of expanding northward the Red King Crab Savings Area (RKCSA) as an emergency action, and also initiated a discussion paper to consider several factors that may have impact on the BBRKC stock. Further description of these motions is included under staff tasking.
Under the five-tier system described in the Crab SAFE report, methods are provided for estimating catch levels that constitute overfishing (i.e., exceeding the OFL). According to the 2021 SAFE report, overfishing did not occur on any of the Council’s crab stocks.
Staff contact is Diana Stram.