Bureaucrats return, get red king crab fishery opened

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska's red king crab fishery, made famous by the Discovery Channel reality show "Deadliest Catch," was finally moving into to full swing Friday after returning furloughed federal workers issued the necessary permits.

Some boats began heading into the Bering Sea from Alaska's Dutch Harbor on Thursday night, said Mark Gleason, executive director of the Seattle-based trade association Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, which represents 70 percent of the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery.

"Relief is the biggest thing in my mind right now," Gleason said. "I'm just relieved that the Congress has put aside its squabbles temporarily."

Alaska's red king crab season opened Tuesday, but most of the participating boats had remained at dock. That's because the federal managers who set their individual quotas for the fishery were among those furloughed in the government's partial shutdown.

Those National Marine Fisheries Service employees returned to their jobs Thursday and went right to work processing the individual fishing quota permits, issuing them the same day.

The quota permits were issued faster than some expected. Gleason said federal officials earlier estimated it would take three to five days.

Julie Speegle, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Friday that processing of all necessary permits for the fishery is complete. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oversees the Fisheries Service.

Those affected by the 16-day shutdown were crabbers on 80 other boats involved in the much larger harvest.