At this meeting, the Council specified 2020 overfishing and acceptable biological catch levels for Norton Sound red king crab (NSRKC). Dr. Martin Dorn, Co-Chair of the Crab Plan Team (CPT), presented the SSC, AP, and Council with an overview of the 2020 stock assessment for NSRKC as well as other issues addressed at the January 2020 CPT meeting in Kodiak. For NSRKC, the SSC recommended a conservative approach for setting acceptable biological catch (ABC) in 2020, based on concerns identified by the CPT and in stakeholder testimony. Under the Council’s harvest control rule for crab, ABC is calculated as a percent reduction, or “buffer”, from the overfishing level (OFL), and the SSC increased the buffer from 20% to 30%, which is above the 25% buffer recommended by the CPT. Based on the recommendations of the SSC, the Council specified 2020 NSRKC OFL at 130 tonnes (287 thousand lbs) and ABC at 90 tonnes (201 thousand lbs).
Norton Sound Red King Crab Stock Status
The updated BSAI Crab SAFE chapter for NSRKC indicates that the 2020 biomass of mature male crab is 1660 tonnes, which is below BMSY (2070 tonnes) but above the minimum stock size threshold (1040 tonnes), and, therefore, the stock not overfished. Additionally, because the 2019 total catch (40 tonnes) was below the OFL specified for 2019 (110 tonnes), overfishing did not occur.
The Crab Plan Team and SSC identified a range of concerns related to the NSRKC stock that contributed to the reduction in ABC. These include low fishery catch per unit effort, evidence of insufficient numbers of mature males, reproductive failures in 2019, and uncertainty in model inputs and model fit.
Other issues covered at the January CPT meeting and reviewed by the SSC, AP, and Council included modeling scenarios for the May 2020 stock assessment for Aleutian Islands golden king crab, an update on improvements for the State’s crab catch estimation, the development of ecosystem and socio-economic profiles for crab fisheries, the finalization of a rebuilding plan for St. Matthew Is. blue king crab, the Council’s Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan, a snow crab spatial model, the 2019 Crab Economic SAFE, an overview of the ADF&G crab observer program, BSAI crab research priorities, and a CPT workshop on the GMACS modeling framework.
Staff contact for the BSAI Crab Plan Team is Jim Armstrong.