Excerpt from alaskapublic.org
The recent closure of the Bering Sea snow crab and Bristol Bay red king crab fisheries has some of Western Alaska’s coastal towns taking a hard look at their futures, and one small island is bracing for a huge hit.
The Pribilof Island of St. Paul runs on snow crab — also known as opilio crab. The community’s Trident Seafoods is one of the largest crab processing plants in the world. So when fisheries management officials announced the species “overfished” and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game shut down snow crab for the first time in the fishery’s history in October, City Manager Phillip Zavadil knew the community needed to act fast.
“We’re trying to get creative and have people understand that this is going to happen more and more, and that we need to address it,” Zavadil said. “We can do something now, instead of waiting for next year, when we don’t have any funding or we can’t provide services.”
About two weeks after ADF&G’s closure announcement, the city declared a cultural, economic and social emergency. At a meeting on Oct. 26, the St. Paul City Council voted unanimously in support of the emergency resolution, which identifies and anticipates effects of climate change on the island’s subsistence and commercial fisheries, and the subsequent impacts the closure of crab fisheries will likely have on the community of around 350 people.