The Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers (ABSC) work collaboratively with both federal and state government agencies, as well as academia and the Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation, towards sound science and fishery management solutions that are both sustainable for the resource and beneficial to the fishing businesses and communities that rely on it.
Changing Ocean Conditions
Ocean conditions appear to be changing in the Bering Sea, with less cold pools (bottom temperatures less than 2 degrees C (36 degrees F)) and increasing ocean acidification. ABSC is tracking these issues and is concerned about their long-term impact on crab stocks.
ABSC explores ways to reduce bycatch in fixed gear and trawl fisheries through gear modifications, bycatch limits, closed areas, and improved monitoring. The term "bycatch" refers to discarded catch of marine species caught during fishing operations.
Sea lions outside Petersburg AK basking in the warm summer weather.
US crab fisheries are sustainable, meaning the crab are harvested at levels that the population can continue to maintain and reproduce. The solid foundation of science and management ensures the sustainability and health of the resource. Sustainability is of utmost importance to the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers because we have a vested interest in this fishery supporting our communities, families, and businesses for generations to come. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, also called the MSA or Magnuson-Stevens Act, is the cornerstone of US fisheries management and the governing law that sets the US as a world leader in sustainable fisheries management. The Magnuson-Stevens Act demands the best available science as the basis for managing the resource and sets progressively protective measures in place when crab populations are low to help rebuild the stock. To complement the federal requirements for sustainability, the state of Alaska also has measures in place to protect and rebuild crab when populations are low.
For more information on Alaska's sustainable crab fisheries, visit
Monterey Bay Aquarium's internationally recognized Seafood Watch Program which rates Alaska crab as a "best choice" for sustainable seafood.
Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) Certification, a Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) recognized sustainability certification meeting the FAO Guidelines for the Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries.
Stock assessments use data from surveys and from the fishery, as well as other biological data, to determine the health of a fisheries stock. This information is used to set harvest levels that are sustainable.
Crab Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) documents are available here.
NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center's interactive map shows changing bottom trawl survey catch per unit effort since 1975 in the eastern Bering Sea shelf for commercially important crab species.
Bristol Bay red king crab stocks considered healthy/sustainable but total allowable catch (TAC) is at an all time low.
Opilio (snow) crab are healthy and TACs are increasing.
Bairdi (Tanner) crab are healthy but TACs are low.
Pribilof Islands and St. Matthew blue king crabs are below a biomass level that can support a fishery due to normal population fluctuations and, therefore, are currently closed to directed fishing to protect the stock.
ABSC works with government agencies, academia, and the Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation on research.
Current research interests include:
tagging and migration studies
survey trawl selectivity comparisons
crab growth studies
effects of ocean acidification
OTHER RESEARCH EFFORTS