Fish Radio
Cordova aims to revive Tanner crab fishery
September 14, 2016

Cordova, Alaska Credit:

Cordova, Alaska


This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Cordova makes plans to revive a local crab fishery. More after this –

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Cordovans are hoping to revive a Tanner crab fishery in Prince William Sound – the fishery has been closed since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill but locals believe it’s time to take a closer look.

It’s largely the opinion of the people around here that the fishery could support an expanded harvest.  

John Whissel  is director of the natural resources department for the Native Village of Eyak. In its hay day the Prince William Sound fishery  produced over 13 million pounds of Tanners; that dropped to half a million pounds by the time of the last opener. Price to fishermen is usually two to three dollars a pound.

State managers still believe the local crab stocks are depleted based on trawl surveys.  Cordovans plan to supplement that data by doing something different:  a mark recapture study.

Where we’d actually pull crab out and put a mark in them and come back and catch crab. This is a pretty standard measurement of species densities and numbers and much more involved than a trawl survey.

Eyak is working out the study design and readying funding proposals for federal dollars to seed the Tanner project. But locals will begin collecting data with their subsistence pots this fall.

Whissel says He says the whole town has come out in support of the local Tanner prospect.

This is as much of a grassroots effort as I’ve ever been a part of in terms of getting some science done. Even if they’re not particularly interested in going out to get Tanner crab everyone understands the benefits of having canneries working year round and boats fishing year round.  There’s other opportunities around here and it would be good for our town and for our state, because with oil prices being what they are and the tax rate being what it is, commercial fishing could play a larger role in the state budget if we gave them the opportunity to do that.

Whissel says he’s hopeful the Tanner project will be a model for other potential local fisheries.

Maybe we can apply it to something else and if we  keep seeking out the data in a group like this instead of individual entities, we can evaluate more of our resources and potentially have a whole mosaic of smaller fisheries around our larger fisheries and a thriving town 365 days a year.  

Whissel calls the collaboration by the state and tribal governments over the Tanner crab project “a new way forward” and says it will open doors to more federal dollars.

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