Alaska authorities have noted an 80% decline in snow crabs in the Bering Sea. Based on this fact, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has canceled the winter hunting season for these sea creatures for the first time in history. However, this may threaten North American fisheries. But ecologists are more worried about why the crabs disappeared on such a large scale.
Crab Decline in Alaska
Biologists estimate that nearly ten billion snow crabs have disappeared in just two years—an eighty percent decline. In 2018, 11.7 billion individuals lived in the Bering Sea. This year, there are almost two billion of them.
The reasons for such a significant decrease are not yet known. Fishermen wonder if the crabs have gone to colder northern waters or left the Bering Sea altogether. But ecologists are concerned that snow crabs have died out because there are no migrant crabs in the more northern regions of the sea.
America’s Fisheries and Ecosystem at risk
For entrepreneurs, this means enormous losses, and fishing has an annual turnover of 200 million dollars in Alaska. Economists say that a massive decline in crabs could be a big blow to the industry. On the other hand, environmentalists worry about the health of the Arctic ecosystem threatened by climate change.
Of course, scientists are scrutinizing the disappearance of the crabs, which represent an essential component of Alaska’s fishing industry. This research is led by Ben Daly of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. His task is to figure out what happened to the crabs. He mentions illness as one of the possibilities. Some research has found a connection between higher temperatures and the spread of various diseases.
Another possibility is climate change. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Alaska is the fastest-warming state, losing billions of tons of ice each year. They critically need ice water to survive.
Source: sustainablefisheries-uw.org/mysterious-bering-sea-crab-collapse, wikimedia.org, needpix.com