Crab pots stacked in Petersburg (Angela Denning/KFSK)

Southeast Alaska won’t have a commercial fishery for red king crab again this fall.

That fishery has only opened six years out of the last two decades, because of low population estimates. It last opened in 2017. The catch that year was over 120,000 pounds worth around 1.3 million dollars at the docks.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game surveys stocks in seven parts of the central and northern panhandle. The department reported that estimates for legal sized male crab have been dropping since 2017 and do not meet a threshold set in regulation for opening the fishery. Only two of the seven survey areas showed increases in crab numbers.

Meanwhile, industry has submitted proposals to the state’s Board of Fisheries to change management of red king crab in the region. The Petersburg Vessel Owner’s Association and the Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Alliance have authored two proposals. One would involve a fishery with trip limits and an equal share during years of low abundance. The industry groups are also anticipating that state funding for crab surveys may be cut from the department’s budget and are asking for the fishery to be opened if that happens. Under that proposal the fishery would open on even years and the season would be managed based on current and historical catches.

(Editor’s note: This story has been corrected due to a mistake in the proposal book for the Board of Fisheries.)