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Red King Crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)

Subsistence Fishery

Provisions are made in Title 5 of the Alaska Administrative Code for subsistence fisheries on red king crab in four general areas: Yakutat [5 AAC 02.108]; Kodiak [5 AAC 02.420]; Alaska Peninsula-Aleutian Islands [5 AAC 02.520]; and the Bering Sea [5 AAC 02.620]. Bag limits and seasons are generally more liberal and gear requirements less restrictive than for personal use or sport fisheries. Unlike personal use fishery catch, which may be shared only with immediate family members, subsistence fishery catch may be shared with all members of the community.

Commercial Fishery

Historically, the red king crab fishery has been Alaska's top shellfish fishery. Between 1975 and 2018, U.S. crabbers harvested nearly 854 million pounds of red king crab worth $2.5 billion* from Alaska waters, making red king crabs the second most valuable species to fishers during this period. Sockeye (red salmon) has been the most valuable species. Record statewide harvest and value for red king crabs was 183 million pounds and $235 million during the 1966/67 and 1978/79 seasons, respectively.

A near peak harvest of red king crabs occurred in the 1980/81 season, but three years later the fishery crashed, as harvests were down sixty-fold, and the four top historical producing areas were closed completely to red king crab fishing for the first time. A long period of few juvenile king crabs surviving to adult size (recruitment) was the primary reason for the crash. Biologists theorize that fish predation on king crabs and a warmer ocean environment were probably responsible for the poor recruitment. Red king crab populations have remained depressed statewide (except in Southeast Alaska) since 1983.

With the sharp decline of red and blue king crab populations, some commercial fishers have targeted on golden king crabs. From 1980-95 122 million pounds of golden king crabs, worth $338 million, have been harvested by fishermen statewide, with the bulk of this catch coming from the waters surrounding the Aleutian Islands.

* Not adjusted for inflation

Personal Use Fishery

There are red king crab personal use fisheries around the state of Alaska. Each region around the state has their own set of regulations in terms of seasons and bag limits for the personal-use fishery. Some areas require permits for personal use red king crab such as the Juneau area district 11-A personal use red king crab fishery. The personal use red king crab fishery is designed to provide harvest opportunities for Alaska residents and their immediate family members.