Alaska BOF Has Full Agenda of Crab Issues

Proposals highlighting a number of statewide king and tanner crab issues for Prince William Sound, Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula, Westward areas, the Aleutian Islands and Norton Sound will be under consideration when the Alaska Board of Fisheries meets on March 8–11 in Anchorage, Alaska.

Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU) are urging the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) to develop a harvest strategy that incorporates commercial catch per unit effort and introduce a commercial king crab fishery in Prince William Sound northern and western districts.

The CDFU proposal notes that harvesters in the Prince William Sound Tanner crab fishery are reporting extremely high levels of king crab abundance, of over 80 crab in some pots, yet are not able to retain any under the current commissioner’s permit.

In Cook Inlet, ADF&G is proposing to amend commercial and noncommercial thresholds, and management based on thresholds for Tanner crab fisheries. ADF&G noted in its proposal that while the legal size for Tanner crab in the Cook Inlet area had been reduced from 5.5 inches to 4.5 inches, the abundance thresholds for commercial and noncommercial fisheries were not updated to reflect the new reduced legal size.

For the Kodiak area, the fisheries board is asked to consider a proposal to change the opening date for Kodiak Tanner crab from Jan. 15 to Dec. 15 because the Pacific cod A season normally opens for pot and longline fisheries on Jan. 1, and boats participating in both fisheries have less opportunity to fish cod. Another Kodiak area proposal calls for aligning pot storage requirements to allow for storage in waters more than 25 fathoms for seven days following season closure for Tanner crab. Increasing the allowed storage time for unbaited gear from 72 hours to seven days would allow a more reasonable time to go back and get remaining gear, wrote harvester Oliver Holm, who submitted that proposal.

For the Chignik area, the creation of a separate commercial king crab fishery has been proposed which would have the same area boundaries as those used in the commercial salmon fishery. “The Chignik area has different boundaries in the king crab fishery when compared to salmon boundaries and those boundaries should be uniform for all fisheries,” said veteran harvester Axel Kopun who submitted the proposal.

For the Bering Sea district, ADF&G supports adopting a new Tanner crab harvest strategy, noting that the Eastern Bering Sea Tanner crab stock is characterized by highly variable and episodic recruitment leading to substantial changes in annual abundance levels. The current Bering Sea Tanner crab harvest strategy was established in 1999 and requires minimum abundance threshold levels for both mature male and female crab to be met before the fishery can occur. In recent years the fishery has been closed or allowed at reduced harvest rates based on low female abundance. The recommended harvest strategy is expected to reduce probability of closures, allow for best application of population estimates and improve yield and stability for stakeholders.