Tanner crabs are managed under a cooperative partnership between the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG). Joint management of Tanner crabs is established under the federal Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the Commercial King and Tanner Crab Fisheries in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) that is overseen by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Historically, Tanner crabs were overfished and the fishery was closed from 1997-2004 and again from 2010-2012. In 2012, the fishery was officially rebuilt – although it remained closed for another year. Management has since been considered strong and fishery managers have responded to the challenges of managing Tanner crabs – whose populations fluctuate naturally – well.
Tanner crabs are managed as three separate stocks – east Bering Sea, eastern Aleutian Islands, and western Aleutian Islands. Fishery managers establish an overfishing limit for the entire population while defining a total allowable catch (TAC) limit for each individual stock. Under the FMP, the NMFS is responsible for permit requirements, observer requirements (if a vessel is selected), and the identification of Habitat and Areas of Particular Concern – which are subject to additional restrictions to prevent their degradation by fishing activities. The ADFG is responsible for the majority of in-season management decisions and actions, such as establishing TAC limits, seasons, and size limits (the latter of which can vary depending on the three stocks). Catch limits are based on a mature male harvest rate of 40 percent and only male Tanner crabs can be retained in the Tanner crab fishery. Additionally, the state of Alaska sets minimum thresholds for mature female biomass and if those thresholds are not met, the fishery will not open. Stock assessments are conducted annually and when setting the allowable biological catch for each season, managers apply any excess catch from the prior season to their total catch estimates which effectively lowers the allowable catch for the current season. In an effort to further reduce fishing pressure, a vessel buyback program was implemented in 2004 that removed 25 vessels from the fishery. Other management measures included in the FMP are: gear restrictions, pot limits, vessel monitoring systems, mandatory electronic logbook use, and a community quota system that allocates 10 percent of the annual TAC to regional coastal communities.
Current stock abundance is considered to be high and according to recent stock assessments, Tanner crabs are not overfished nor subject to overfishing.
The Federal Agency for Fishery (Rosrybolovstvo) is the federal agency responsible for fisheries and conservation of marine biological resources in Russia. Historically, Tanner crabs have been overfished in Russia. While a total allowable catch limit is established for Tanner crabs, there are significant issues of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing occurring in the fishery and as such, total landings often exceed the established TAC limit.