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King crab is a very large type of crab that lives in cold seas. There are several types of king crab — red, blue, and golden — that are fished commercially, and these are found in different locations along the coast of Alaska and Russia. The season is dictated by the crab population, the specific type of crab, and location, as different areas and crabs have different seasons. The main purpose of the fishing seasons is to limit the number of crabs caught each year in order to maintain a healthy crab population.
At one point in time, there was no specified season in which king crabs could be caught. These crabs proved to be so popular, however, that their habitats were over-fished, seriously depleting the number of crabs left in the wild. In order to help re-establish king crabs off the coast of Alaska, only male crabs can be caught and they must be a specific size. Female and juvenile crabs must be thrown back into the water.
As of 2005, the Alaskan king crab season functions as a quota, in that each boat has a specific number of crabs they can catch each season. Before this, the season functioned by derby; boats would compete to catch as many crabs as possible, as the only restriction was on the total number of crabs caught in the season, not the number of crabs caught per boat.
With the decline of the king crab population along the coast of Alaska, the length of the season has also decreased. At its shortest, the red king crab season has been as little as four days, though currently the fishing season has stabilized to between two and four weeks between the months of October and January. The type of crab and location also dictates when the season occurs.
In the Yakutat areas, the season for both red and blue varieties, typically occurs over the months of November and December. In the southeast of Alaska, red and blue king crab season can run from the beginning of November to the end of January. Golden king crab season occurs sometime from mid-February to mid-June. In the Arctic-Yukon region, red king crab has a much longer season, from the beginning of November to the end of May, and even during the months of July and August. In the Aleutian Islands and Bristol Bay, the red king crab season runs from mid-October to mid-January, the golden season from the beginning of August to mid-May, and blue king crabs cannot be fished at all.