What caused billions of snow crabs to disappear from the Bering Sea?

Bering Sea snow crabs once numbered in the billions. But after a recent massive population decline, the crabs have all but disappeared from these waters – and they may not be coming back anytime soon.

In 2018, approximately 3 billion sexually mature crayfish (Chionoecetes opilio) inhabited the Bering Sea by approximately five billion immature crabs, Seattle Times reported (opens in a new tab). But by the end of 2021, those numbers hovered around 2.5 million and 6.5 million, respectively, a loss of nearly eight billion crabs in just three years. In February, the National Marine Fisheries Service named after issued an official warning about overfishing (opens in a new tab) for the population, and in early October, officials with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) made the difficult decision to cancel the seasonal snow crab harvest due to fears of wiping out the shellfish entirely.

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