If the National Marine Fisheries Service stays shuttered, could the resulting October lull cause part of the crabbing fleet to financially flounder or force some captains to downsize their crews?
"At the very least it's going to cost everybody a lot of money," Suryan said during an interview with NBC News via his boat phone. He and his crew also fish for snow crab during the early months each year. "Whether that brings people to the tipping point or not, it's hard for me to judge. Just being here is expensive.
"There are always people who operate on the margins. Fortunately, we're not typically there," added Suryan, who's been in the business for 35 years. "But we haven't fished since spring when we finished up the snow crab (season). So for a lot of these guys, there hasn't been any income for months. They're literally banking on this."
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Suryan has never been featured on "Deadliest Catch." The Discovery Channel's famous skippers and crews are in Alaska preparing for the beginning of the season and the beginning of production, scheduled for this weekend. Because they are in Dutch Harbor, where cell phone reception is spotty, the producers and captains were not available at press time to be interviewed by NBC News. A spokesperson for Discovery said he did not know if production would be hindered by the shutdown.
Also unclear: whether grocery stores will be stocking or selling Alaskan red king crab this year.
While Japanese consumers are the crabbers' prime targets, many Americans, of course, enjoy cracking and savoring the crustaceans. In full, the Bristol Bay red king crab season runs to Jan. 15, 2014. Experts had predicted a harvest of 8.6 million pounds, similar to the fleet's take in 2012-13.
A prolonged federal shutdown could mean that many of those tasty critters may enjoy a temporary reprieve.
"No fishing means more crabs to reproduce in the spring," Bradley Stevens, a fisheries biologist at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, told NBC News in an email. He collected data for the government on king crab stocks for 22 years.
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What's more, the loss of Alaskan king crab from stores could tempt diners to opt for crab legs pulled from Russian waters. Doing so is a no-no, according to Ken Peterson, a spokesman for the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program, which lists those crabs on its "avoid" list since the fishery is poorly managed and stocks are at critically low levels.
A better alternative, he suggested, is southern red crab from Argentina. Another option is snow crab from Canada.
"There are some other places that people can go," Peterson said, "if they are still looking for crab."
—By Bill Briggs, NBC News. John Roach and Maria Elena Fernandez contributed to this report.