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One Billion Snow Crabs Have Disappeared From the Bearing Sea

The snow crab population in the Bering Sea has decreased by one billion, causing Alaskan officials to cancel the fishing season for the first time in the state's history. Here's what you need to know.

alaskan snow crab season canceled
Written by
Calin Van Paris
Today in unsettling environmental news,
90% of the snow crabs
that populate the Bering Sea have disappeared over the past two years—an estimated one billion crustaceans, gone.
Alaskan officials
recognized the decline last week, canceling winter snow crab season in the Bering Sea for the first time in the state's history.
The snow crab population shrank from around 8 billion in 2018 to 1 billion in 2021, a shift
relayed to CNN
by Benjamin Daly, a researcher with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Daly notes that while disease is a possibility,
climate change
is at least partially to blame for the dramatic drop.

Snow Crabs and Climate Change

alaskan snow crab season canceled
Ecologist and science writer Spencer Roberts
took to Twitter
to address the snow crab situation from a climate perspective. Roberts writes that warming has led to a lack of sea ice and subsequent shrinkage of the "cold pools" that nurture young snow crabs—and protect them from predators.
Recent research has found
that the Arctic is heating up four times faster than the rest of the planet, a staggering stat in keeping with this level of change in marine life.
The seafood industry is bound to experience a major blow—2021 brought an estimated 44 million pounds and $219 billion dollars in snow crab,
according to NOAA
—but the disappearance of the animal represents much more than a dollar amount. It represents a warning: Change needs to happen. And it needs to happen quickly.