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Alaska Dispatch: Alaska king crab fishery snared by Congress as season opener gets delayed by shutdown

The Alaska fishermen made famous by the TV reality show “The Deadliest Catch” were Monday caught in a deadly tangle of American politics, their fishing boats idle at the docks in Dutch Harbor as Democrats and Republicans squabbled 4,000 miles to the east in the nation’s capital.

The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery is set to open at noon Tuesday, but that largely isn’t going to happen because of the ongoing budget battle and congressional showdown over Obamacare that’s behind the two-week-old federal government shutdown and furlough of 800,000 “non-essential” federal employees, including 16,000 in Alaska.

Among them were biologists working for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries in Alaska, which apportions 8.6 million pounds of crab catch among Alaska fishermen in what are called “individual fishing quotas” or IFQs.