Tiny Dungeness crabs are showing scary impacts from increasing acidity in the oceans.   Credit:  Associated Press 

Two hundred fishermen in Southeast Alaska will share a record $16.3 million payday for the Dungeness crab they hauled up from combined summer and winter fisheries, which just wrapped up last month.

Crabbers fishing primarily around Petersburg and Wrangell landed 5.3 million pounds of dungies for the season, the third highest catch and at an average $3.07 per pound, the most valuable ever.

“It was pretty awesome that we  broke that record.”  

Adam Messmer is a shellfish biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Speaking to KFSK in Petersburg, he said the high Dungeness harvest means the crab stock is staying healthy. He added that the timing of the fishery also works well.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of softshell,” he said.

Softshell crab mean they’ve recently molted and can’t be retained for market.

Meanwhile, some grim news for Dungeness crab has surfaced that reveals impacts of increased ocean acidity. Results from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in California  show for the first time that Dungies in their natural environment are showing signs of damaged shells and legs in tiny developing crabs, and more surprisingly, the loss of hair-like sensory bristles that stick out from their shells and help the crabs navigate their environment.

Prior to this study, scientists thought Dungeness crab were not vulnerable to current levels of ocean acidification, although NOAA lab studies on Dungeness crab larvae in Oregon in 2016 showed their development and survival suffered under acidic levels expected in the future.

The study was published last month in the journal Science of the Total Environment.