March 27, 2014 Crabbers will survey vast area for science
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch … Alaska crabbers sign on for the biggest survey ever. More after this —
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Alaska’s golden king crab fleet plans to undertake the biggest survey ever on the entire range of the Aleutian Islands golden crab stock. It covers an 800 mile span from Dutch Harbor to Atka.
It’s a huge area.
John Hilsinger is science advisor for the Aleutian King Crab Research Foundation, a harvester group.
So what we’re thinking is to design the survey for the entire area and then start off the first year by doing a portion of the area to prove that the concept and make sure the survey works well and integrates will with the fishermen. and right kind of gear and pot spacing and coverage and that kind of thing. Once we do that in a smaller area in the beginning we can make whatever kinds of adjustments are necessary we need to the survey design and then spread it out over a much larger area.
Through 2006 state managers tracked a small area of the Aleutians but there’s no budget to assess the far flung crab stocks. This will be the first time such an extensive survey has been undertaken.
It is exciting. I think for the first time w 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.
The expanded surveys will start yielding results in three to five years and it could be 10 years before a proven track record of the population can be modeled over time.
The crabbers are very committed to help over that time frame. That’s a real major contribution by the fleet.
If the survey gets the nod by stakeholders in May, it will begin when the fishery opens in mid-August. The Aleutians golden king crab fishery harvest has operated under a six million pound fixed cap for decades and crabbers believe the catch could be higher. Eventually, goldens could overtake Bristol Bay and become Alaska’s largest king crab fishery.
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