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The Snow Crab Vanishes

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“If we’ve lost the ice, we’ve lost the 2-degree water,” Michael Litzow, shellfish assessment program manager with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told me. “Cold water, it’s their niche—they’re an Arctic animal.”

The snow crab may rebound in a few years, so long as there aren’t any periods of warm water. But if warming trends continue, as scientists predict, the marine heat waves will return, pressuring the crab population again.

Bones litter the wild part of St. Paul Island like Ezekiel’s Valley in the Old Testament—reindeer ribs, seal teeth, fox femurs, whale vertebrae, and air-light bird skulls hide in the grass and along the rocky beaches, evidence of the bounty of wildlife and 200 years of killing seals.

When I went to visit Phil Zavadil, the city manager and Aqualina’s husband, in his office, I found a couple of sea lion shoulder bones on a coffee table. Called “yes/no” bones, they have a fin along the top and a heavy ball at one end. In St. Paul, they function like a magic eight ball. If you drop one and it falls with the fin…

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