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Alaska Snow Crab Season Canceled As Officials Investigate Missing About 1 Billion Crabs

etradefactory.comIn a blow to the U.S. seafood industry, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has canceled the winter Bering Sea snow crab season for the first time in Alaskan history. state because of their declining numbers. While restaurant menus will suffer, scientists are concerned about what the sudden population decline means for the health of the Arctic ecosystem. An estimated one billion crabs have mysteriously disappeared in two years, state officials have said. It marks a population decline of 90%. “Did they run up north to get that colder water?” asked Gabriel Prout, whose Kodiak Island fishing business relies heavily on the snow crab population. “Did they completely cross the border? Did they walk off the continental shelf on the edge there, over the Bering Sea?” Ben Daly, an ADF & G researcher, investigates where the crabs have gone. He oversees the health of the state’s fishery, which produces 60% of the country’s seafood.

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“Illness is a possibility,” Daly told CBS News. He also points to climate change. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Alaska is the nation’s fastest-warming state, losing billions of tons of ice every year – critical for crabs that need cold water to survive. “Environmental conditions change rapidly,” Daly said. “We’ve seen warm conditions in the Bering Sea in recent years, and we’re seeing a response in a cold-adapted species, so it’s pretty obvious it’s related. It’s a canary in a coal mine because d ‘other species need cold water.’ Prout said there needs to be an aid program for fishermen, similar to programs for farmers who experience poor harvests or for communities affected by hurricanes or floods. Font CBSNEWS

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