Kodiak Tanners called off for 4th year
October 21, 2016
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – More bad crab news at Kodiak and further west. More after this –
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The popular January Tanner crab fishery has been cancelled for the fourth year running at the Westward Region, meaning Kodiak, Chignik and the Alaska Peninsula.
During the last fishery, a fleet of 80 or more small boats took a combined catch of about three million pounds of crab worth several million dollars to the region. But annual surveys show the numbers of both legal sized males and females don’t meet the minimums to allow for a fishery.
“ We don’t seem to be having a problem making small crab. The problem seems to be getting them to a legal size where we can have a fishery on them.”
Nat Nichols is shellfish manager at Fish and Game in Kodiak. Three years ago surveys showed what appeared to be the largest cohort of crab poised to enter the fishery since the 1980s. But each year since, the number of recruits has dwindled.
“The magnitude of that group of crab is diminishing faster than the large cohorts that came before it. We’re still seeing it, there’s just not that many of them left. We are still tracking that group through the population. “
Kodiak is seeing slight increases, especially at east and southeast districts, Nichols says, but it’s slow going.
“ Kodiak had increase abundances of both males and females driven by smaller size class of crab so it is encouraging to see an increase but that increase is relative to the 2015 survey which was a real low point in the time series so while we’re making a move in the right direction we’re still in a pretty depressed state as far as total abundance goes.”
At Chignik, crab abundance is in a real slump.
“Abundance estimates for both legal males and all sizes of females were the second lowest in the survey time series that goes back to 1988.”
At the Western Peninsula, the stock is in decline and the bulk of the crab were heavily localized in just two areas of one bay. Biologists point to a changing ocean and predation as the likely causes of the Tanner declines.
“Whether they’re not enjoying the ocean conditions we’ve been seeing for the past few years of the warm water is having an effect on their distribution or their survivability is something that should be looked at. We also are seeing increases in skates and small halibut and cod in nearshore, pollock as well, so I think it’s fair to look at increased predation as a reason why we don’t have these small crabs making it to legal size.”
Nichols has confidence in the annual surveys, and says for several years they’ve gone beyond the standard grid, thanks to funds from the Aleutians East Borough.
“The two options are the crabs aren’t there or we’re not finding them. To try and satisfy ourselves that we’re not finding them we have spent a fair amount of time looking outside the regular survey grids. And the results of those additional tows indicate that there are small bits of crab everywhere you look but we haven’t identified a hah, they’re out here, they’re deeper – have haven’t found a large portion of crab that indicate to us we’re missing them wholesale.”
It takes six to seven years for aTanner crab to grow to their legal, two pound size.
Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods. Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America. www.oceanbeauty.com In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.