How old is that crab NOAA Research


This is Fish Radio. I’m Stephanie Mangini. How do you determine a crab’s real age? Learn more after this . . . 

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In the belly of the NOAA research center in Kodiak  lies the nation’s top crab lab. Through the double doors there are tanks and totes filled to the brim with constant running sea water that house thousands of red, blue and golden king crab from the Bering Sea. The crabs vary in size from hatchlings to full grown.

“There are no structures on a crab that allow us to age them. A fish you can take the ear bone out you can look at the rings and you can get an age, but there is nothing like that in a crab right now.”

Bob Foy is director of the NOAA lab. He and his team are tracking the age and life span of  king crabs. The goal is to help managers better assess the stocks.

“We have about five years worth of crab now, and the idea is if we get another few years worth of crab we will be able to conduct some studies to try and help us age the crab.”

Foy points out two crab the exact same age but very different in size. 

“The problem is they grow at different rates. They are that different. Our ability to find out what age they are is impossible.”

The crab are put through all types of trials for better data.

“What we try to do with assessment models is to take a crab that is one year old and predict how many will grow to be two,  how fast they will grow, how big they get all the way up to recruitment so we can predict who will be there in the end.”

By watching the king crab life cycle it will create a more useful mold. 

“Without that information it is difficult for us to see and predict and model the stocks. That modeling is how all the managing is done. If that is not done right then the management has some uncertainty associated with it. So we are trying to do is reduce as much uncertainty as possible.”

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, celebrating 101 years of partnership with Alaska’s coastal communities.  In Kodiak, I’m Stephanie Mangini.