Wednesday February 8, 2023


The first-ever cancellation of Alaska’s Bering Sea snow crab harvest was unprecedented and a shock to the state’s fishing industry and the communities dependent on it.

Unfortunately for that industry and those communities, those conditions are likely to be common in the future, according to several scientists who made presentations at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium held in late January.

The conditions that triggered the crash were likely warmer than any extreme possible during the preindustrial period but now can be expected in about one of every seven years, said Mike Litzow, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric scientist based in Kodiak. By the 2040s, those conditions can be expected to occur one out of every three years, he said.

Blame “borealization” for the disaster befalling snow crab, which is an Arctic species, Litzow said. That term refers to an ecosystem becoming boreal, with groups of organisms — called “taxa” by scientists — that have been south of the Arctic until recently.

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