The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has, for the first time in state history, cancelled the winter snow crab season in the Bering Sea because of the species’ declining population, dealing a severe blow to the nation’s seafood economy. Scientists are concerned about what the dramatic population decline means for the health of the Arctic ecosystem, even though restaurant menus will suffer.
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According to state officials, a billion crabs are thought to have inexplicably vanished in the past two years. There has been a 90% decline in their population.
Gabriel Prout, whose Kodiak Island fishing operation strongly relies on the snow crab species, questioned “Did they run up north to acquire that colder water?” “Did they cross the border entirely? Did they actually walk over the Bering Sea and off the edge of the continental shelf?”
ADF&G researcher Ben Daly is looking into the whereabouts of the crabs. He keeps an eye on the condition of the state’s fisheries, which supply 60% of the country’s seafood. Disease is a potential scenario, Daly told CBS News.
Additionally, he mentions climate change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that Alaska is warming at the nation’s fastest rate and losing billions of tonnes of ice annually, which is crucial for crabs, who depend on frigid water to survive.
Environmental conditions are fast changing, according to Daly. “It is quite clear that there is a connection between the recent high temperatures in the Bering Sea and the response we are witnessing in a species that is acclimated to frigid temperatures. It serves as a warning sign for other species that require cold water.”
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According to Prout, there needs to be a relief programme for fishermen, much like there is for farmers who have failed crops or for areas hit by hurricanes or flooding.When asked what fisherman, whose livelihoods depend on the ocean, can do in this position, Prout replied, “Wish and ask. That’s probably the best way to put it.”