Canceled crab season could devastate Unalaska

Canceled crab season could devastate Unalaska
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 5:13 PM AKDT
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UNALASKA, Alaska (KTUU) - As the top fishing port by volume in the nation, fishing runs in the veins of Unalaska.

Officials say that nearly everyone in the city relies on the robust seafood industry.

“Our only industry is our fishing industry. So everything that goes on in communities are related,” said Frank Kelty, the Fishery consultant for the City of Unalaska.

For decades, the snow crab industry was of critical importance to the city. However, in the past few years, the industry has been experiencing lower catch volumes.

“In 2019, we had the quota of 45 million pounds. Then last year, we were down to 25 million pounds,” Kelty said.

This year, that industry came to a drastic halt. In October, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed both the Bristol Bay red king crab and Bering Sea snow crab seasons. The seasons were both closed as a conservation measure.

Kelty said he is expecting the lost revenue from the past two years — combined with these suspended seasons — to nearly reach a billion dollars in losses for both the crabbing industry and the regional business sector.

Furthermore, Kelty said, the entire city will be seeing an impact as the season closure creates a ripple effect throughout the city. Everything from gas sales to grocery shopping could see a change.

“You know 60, 70 boats not buying fuel. Not buying groceries. It adds up pretty quick,” Kelty said. “Those boats aren’t fishing, they are not buying groceries every five days when they come in for a trip, the clinics not seeing as many people that are sick.”

Kelty also said future financial support could be impacted.

“If it goes long-term, you’ll lose people that are schoolteachers,” Kelty said. “If the school population goes down, which affects the state dollars, that we get from the city and from the state of Alaska to support the school district, so you have this trickle-down effect that affects the whole community,” Kelty said.

Kelty said that there are two disaster bills pending with the Department of Commerce. If those are approved, Kelty said the money would be divided between harvesters, processors and the community.