This is Fish Radio. I’m Stephanie Mangini. Serial crab killers of the deep. Hear more after this . . .
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Dive into Womens Bay, an inlet located on the island of Kodiak and you will find a graveyard of lost or abandoned crab pots or as NOAA’s diving biologist Pete Cummiskey likes to call “Ghost Pots.”
“ The buoy connecting the pot to the surface is usually gone for one reason or another and the pot is on the bottom and is able to continue to ghost fish and can continue to fish for a long period of time.”
Cummiskey along with other divers have been tracking red king crab in the Womens Bay area for around seventeen years.
“It didn’t start out as a dedicated study for ghost fishing,it was something that we noticed after doing other work.”
Divers began research by attaching acoustic tags to the crab which then lead them to find the hazards of ghost pots.
“The receiver led us to the tags and about 10 percent of the time out of 614 dives the tagged crab was in or on a crab pot.”
The team of divers disable the pots so that crab can move freely through them, but it doesn’t always stop the crab from getting caught or tangled in them.
“King crab love structure, and that is one of the reasons I think that ghost fishing hits king crab harder then tanner crab; because king crab like to crawl on things and pile up against things. So king crab are a little more vulnerable in that way.”
A total of 192 crab have been tagged over the span of the project and tracked for an average of 147 days. Divers also observed 143 pots.
“In all our pots that we observed 62 percent of them where intact, which means they were able to ghost fish. So if a crab crawled in it; it was most likely to die and not be able to escape.”
After running the crab mortality rate from ghost fishing compared to the numbers of other crab deaths they found that between 16 to 37 percent of the king crab in Womens Bay are killed in abandon pots each year. Efforts have been made to remove some of the lost gear and Cummiskey hopes to see it continue.
Find links about Ghost Fishing on our website www.alaskafishradio.com
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 Stephanie Mangini.