Approval of the SAFE and 2020/2021 OFL/ABC
The Council approved the Final 2020 BSAI Crab SAFE and specified OFLs and ABCs for EBS snow crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, EBS Tanner crab, Saint Matthew blue king crab and Pribilof Island blue king crab for the 2020/21 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 2020 meeting. Cancellation of the 2020 summer trawl survey due to COVID-19 created the potential for additional uncertainty in OFL as estimated in crab stock assessments, and the Council adopted additional reductions in ABC (i.e., “survey loss buffer”) to account for that uncertainty, as recommended by the SSC and the CPT. The Council’s motion adopting the 2020/21 OFLs and ABCs for these five BSAI crab stocks is provided here.
Crab Stock Status
The final 2020 BSAI Crab SAFE 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 support estimation of stock biomass (B), so stock status compares current biomass (i.e., B2020) to target (BMSY) and threshold (½ BMSY) biomass (see Figure 1). The final 2020 SAFE indicates that EBS snow crab, Aleutian Islands golden king crab, and Pribilof Islands red king crab are all above BMSY, while EBS Tanner crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, and Norton Sound red king crab are below BMSY but above ½ BMSY. The biomass estimate for EBS Tanner crab was above BMSY last year, and so the updated biomass estimate represents a decline.
Saint Matthew blue king crab and Pribilof Islands blue king crab stock are both below ½ BMSY (Figure 1) which defines the minimum stock size threshold (MSST) for these stocks and means that they are both overfished. Pribilof Islands blue king crab has been overfished since 2002, while Saint Matthew blue king crab was declared to be overfished in October 2018. The Council-recommended rebuilding plan for Saint Matthew blue king crab has been approved and will be effective for the 2020/2021 fishing season. 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.
Under the five-tier system described in the Crab SAFE methods are provided for estimating catch levels that constitute overfishing (i.e., the OFL). According to the 2020 SAFE, overfishing did not occur for any of the Council’s crab stocks.
Staff contact for BSAI crab stocks is Jim Armstrong.