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Alaska Governor, Mike Dunleavy, wrote to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo requesting that she declare a fishery disaster determination for the 2022/23 Bristol Bay red king crab and Bering Sea snow crab fisheries. As the affected parties asked for last week, in addition, Governor Dunleavy also requested the issuance of a disaster determination for the 2021/22 Bristol Bay red king crab fishery.

“Available information indicates the decline for both crab stocks resulted from natural causes linked to warming ocean temperatures. We listened to the stakeholders and their need for economic relief in the crab industry and Alaska’s affected communities. We are working swiftly to ensure the Secretary of Commerce considers our request”, said Dunleavy. “I have requested that Secretary Raimondo declares a fishery disaster for both Bristol Bay and the Bering Sea and expedites the decision for the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery”.

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The letter states that, based on available information, the 2021/22 and 2022/23 Bristol Bay red crab and 2022/23 Bering Sea snow crab fisheries meet the criteria for a fishery disaster determination. “Due to the complete closure of these fisheries, I am requesting an expedited disaster determination because total ex-vessel losses are 100 percent below the previous five-year average and these losses directly affect all participants engaged in the fishery”, it says.

That means the petition supports the arguments of the crabbers, who led by Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers brought together a total of eleven organizations and municipalities who argued that since these were total closures, there was no need to wait for final data for a determination.

Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game said, for his part, that the decision to close snow and red king crab fishing this year was difficult understanding the impact the closure would have on fishermen and communities. “However, given the lack of meaningful recruitment, my decision was to err on the side on conservation and sustainability”, he justified. And added: “We must now focus on providing disaster relief to fishermen and communities and on developing rebuilding plans for these stocks that involve the fishing industry”.

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