The Council approved 2019/2020 fishing year OFLs and ABCs for the Aleutian Islands golden king crab and Pribilof Islands blue king crab stocks, and reviewed summaries and SSC comments for stock assessment scenarios and other issues addressed at the Crab Plan Team’s May 2019 meeting. The Council also reviewed issues related to rebuilding the St. Matthew blue king crab stock and adopted a purpose and need statement and alternatives for a forthcoming analysis in support of developing the rebuilding plan.
For AI golden king crab specifications, the Council adopted an OFL of 5,249 mt and an ABC of 3,937 mt, and for Pribilof Island blue king crab, the Council adopted an OFL of 1.16 mt and an ABC of 0.87 mt, all of which are consistent with the recommendations of the Crab Plan Team, SSC, and AP. Complete 2019 SAFE chapters for those stocks are posted, along with the Crab Plan Team May meeting report, on the Council’s website. Final 2019/2020 OFLs and ABCs for five BSAI crab stocks (snow crab, Tanner crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, Pribilof Island red king crab, and St. Matthew blue king crab) will be specified in October.
The Council was officially notified on October 22, 2018 that the St. Matthew blue king crab stock was overfished, and according to the MSA, a rebuilding plan will have to be implemented within two years of that date, coincident with the start of the 2020/2021 fishing season. The MSA envisions rebuilding of overfished stocks in no more than ten years, unless this cannot be accomplished even when fishing mortality is constrained to zero. Accordingly, the rebuilding plan that is being developed for St. Matthew blue king crab will identify the minimum time for rebuilding (TMIN), which corresponds to zero fishing mortality, as well as the maximum permissible rebuilding time, TMAX. Estimation of TMIN and TMAX, is contingent on the appropriate BMSY target that defines a rebuilt stock once achieved. A breakpoint analysis of biomass time series was reviewed by the Crab Plan Team and SSC and suggests that the stock may currently be in a period of lower productivity, which reduces TMIN and TMAX relative to existing BMSY. Final target time frames and the OFL during rebuilding will be determined in October following CPT and SSC review. The adopted alternatives include options to either close directed fishing for St. Matthew blue king crab or allow low level harvest under the State’s harvest policy. In adopting the alternatives, the Council noted that recent groundfish fishery bycatch is not constraining to crab stock recovery, and that NMFS in-season management authority may be used at any time during rebuilding to close areas to groundfish effort and prevent crab bycatch from reaching OFL.
Staff contact is Jim Armstrong