Did 11 billion crabs go missing?
A survey of the population revealed thousands of tons of crabs, more than eleven billion animals estimates had said were on the Pacific Ocean floor, simply weren't there. The reason for their absence is a mystery, with many possible explanations — disease, migration, cannibalism and more.
Experts say what's happening to crab numbers in the Bering Sea may be a combination of factors, but climate change is first and foremost among those factors. Even so, this is a precipitous decline—suggesting some other factor, like a virulent disease, is compounding the effects of climate change.
Headlines relayed what the government had gathered: Nearly 11 billion crabs had, effectively, disappeared. The cause remained an open case, albeit with a prime suspect: climate change. But climate doesn't tell the whole story.
The plight of the species sends a climate change warning that can't be ignored. Crabbers, suppliers, and restaurants are bracing for the economic blow. Snow crab numbers in the Bering Sea have dwindled by the billions in just the last few years.
The quota was down about 90% from 2020; this year's population numbers were even worse, according to Westphal, prompting the fishery's closure. Westphal says they're not totally sure what caused the snow crab collapse, but they suspect warmer ocean conditions caused by climate change may be partly to blame.
Between 2021 and 2022, the abundance of adult female blue crabs decreased from 158 million to 97 million. This number is above the 72.5 million threshold which is considered to be the minimum sustainable level for female blue crabs in the Bay, but lower than the target of 196 million.
In reaction to extremely low Alaskan snow and king crab populations, the state has decided to cancel the fall and winter harvest of the crustaceans for the first time in history.
But the actual numbers behind that decision are shocking: The snow crab population shrank from around 8 billion in 2018 to 1 billion in 2021, according to Benjamin Daly, a researcher with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game canceled all opilio snow, red king crab, and blue king crab seasons for 2022-2023, in a devastating blow to North Pacific fishermen and processors after trawl surveys showed a continuing crash in abundance.
Yes, an official government report put together by a team of expert scientists was published in November 2021 with a clear conclusion that animals such as crabs, lobsters, prawns & crayfish (decapod crustaceans) are capable of feeling pain.
How many crabs are there in the world 2022?
According to an annual survey of the Bering Sea floor carried out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, estimates for the crustaceans' total numbers fell to about 1.9 billion in 2022, down from 11.7 billion in 2018, or a reduction of about 84 percent.
Supermarkets drove that rise in price because people were going to the supermarkets, not restaurants, during the pandemic,” he said. “Supermarkets realized people were willing to pay more than they would in the past.”
California's 2021-2022 crab season was cut off early in March in the wake of two humpback whale entanglements. The season's traditional closure is June 30. Humpback whales are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The green crab is a climate change winner. From the articles and videos, we know that the green crab lives in warmer water, and now that the coastal waters are warmer their population has exploded. We also know that they do not have any natural predators that live in the warmer water either.
What's going on? Climate change, overfishing, and bycatch issues are resulting in a novel case within the fisheries sector — a concerning occurrence that is expected to become more prevalent in the coming years.
The NOAA abundance surveys found the total snow crab population in the eastern Bering Sea dropped from an estimated 11.7 billion in 2018 down to 1.9 billion in 2022 (these surveys are a critical piece, but not the only piece, that NOAA uses to determine long-term population trends).
Crustacean Decimation Due to Climate-Change-Driven Cannibalization. Snow crab legs, the pale-pink centerpiece of any self-respecting seafood platter, are no longer on the menu. They are the victim of a massive population crash that led Alaska to cancel its 2022 Bering Sea snow crab harvest for the first time in history ...
The main culprit was almost certainly human-caused climate change, though unsustainable fishing practices may also have played a role, the Seattle Times reported (opens in new tab). Snow crabs thrive in the cold northern waters of the Bering Sea floor.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the snow crab population in Bristol Bay (a.k.a. crab Manhattan) shrank from around 8 billion in 2018 to 1 billion in 2021.