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What Happened to All the Alaska Snow Crabs?

April 25, 2024

A few years ago, snow crab populations in Alaska collapsed. Hear how NOAA biologists solved the mystery of what happened to them.

Photo of a pair of Bering Sea snow crabs on a lab table. Bering Sea snow crab support a valuable commercial fishery. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

In October 2022, the Bering Sea snow crab season was canceled for the first time in U.S. history. Snow crab populations crashed unexpectedly and officials had no choice but to close the fishery. The next year, it happened again. 

The decline of roughly 10 billion crabs hit fishermen hard and the entire industry was impacted—from distributors, to processors, to consumers. The value of the fishery went from $227 million to $0 in just 2 years. Making it all the more confounding was that snow crabs were abundant just a few years prior. So ... what happened?

In our new episode, we'll speak with Dr. Cody Szuwalski, a research fishery biologist and stock assessment scientist at NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center. He is the lead author of a study examining the snow crab collapse. Tune in as we hear how NOAA biologists cracked the case of the mysterious Alaska snow crab collapse, what likely caused it, and why it matters.

Last updated by Office of Communications on May 09, 2024