10 billion snow crabs have disappeared off the Alaskan coast. Here’s why

From 2018 to 2021, an estimated 10 billion snow crabs disappeared from the eastern Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska, with the population plummeting to record lows in 2021. Researchers had only speculated as to what happened to the missing crabs. Now, a study in the Oct. 20 Science finds that a marine heat wave probably spurred a mass die-off, in part by causing crabs to starve.

“It’s a fishery disaster in the truest sense of the word,” says Cody Szuwalski, a fishery biologist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

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