Crabbers set out pots for science, expand red king crab recon at Adak
February 4, 2016
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Crabbers set out pots for science. I’ll tell you more after this —
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Crabbers who target golden king crab along the far flung Aleutian Islands are setting out pots for science. The goal is to get more data on the golden stocks and to expand fishing opportunities.
They’re such an interesting animal and they live in this rocky environment where they hang on the cliffs and they are difficult to fish, and of course, there is almost nothing known about the Aleutian Islands.
John Hilsinger, Science Advisor for the Aleutian King Crab Research Foundation, a non-profit group started by crab harvesters four years ago.
Despite big cutbacks in research funds, the crabbers are expanding ongoing surveys projects on golden stocks, and starting a new red king crab study near Adak. Hilsinger says it’s partnerships between the fishermen and state and federal agencies that let them advance the needed science.
The crab fishermen were interested in creating the nonprofit Foundation and funding the research, to work with the Dept. of Fish and Game and NMFS to try to get some information about these animals.
Golden king crab from the Aleutian Islands have been Alaska’s most stable crab stock for nearly 35 years, with a conservative annual harvest of six million pounds. Only very limited stock surveys have been done, due to the high costs associated with “doing science” at the distant, deep water fishery. In Alaska, no surveys mean no chance for a fishery to either begin or grow.
Two years ago the fleet partnered with a Fish and Game project that showed golden crab stocks are healthy and growing. The team also devised a method to survey the entire population of the stocks spanning over 800 miles. That project got underway at the August 1 start of the fishery.
It is exciting. I think for the first time we will have a good idea of the size of the population, the age and sex structure of the population and the distribution and how deep they go and what proportion of the population occurs at different depths. So it will be a major improvement in our knowledge of golden king crab.
Also underway: the golden crabbers, state researchers and the Adak Community Development Corporation have begun a “recon” survey for red king crab near Adak, an area that has not been surveyed since 2002. The hope is to have a small boat crab fishery in the remote region.
Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. (www.oceanbeauty.com) In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.