Culturing Success with Southeast Alaska Red King Crab

Biologists with the Alaska Sea Grant program say they have successfully cultured red king crab larvae from female crab collected in Southeast Alaska, in their work at the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward.

Previous success in culturing was achieved by the biologists using red king crab from Bristol Bay. The goal of this experiment was to determine if broodstock origin impacts hatchery production success, said researchers with the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology program.

Survival from stocking to the post-larval stage was 43 percent for Bristol Bay crab and 60 percent for Southeast Alaska crab.

Researchers said the improved survival of the Southeast Alaska crab suggests that hatchery protocols for rearing red king crab can be applied to stocks outside of Bristol Bay. This is an important finding, they said, as future stock enhancement programs may require broodstock from specific areas that are targeted for releases.

The ability to culture crabs from different locations is critical for statewide enhancement, they said. In this case, they took broodstock from Southeast Alaska, which is not currently a target for enhancement, so that they might use the resulting juvenile crab in summer field studies to evaluate predation effects on hatchery-cultured juvenile crab. Juvenile red king crab cultured at the hatchery will also be used in laboratory experiments at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center Behavioral Ecology Lab in Newport, Oregon, to better understand early juvenile king crab biology.

The Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology program is a research and rehabilitation project sponsored by the Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, NOAA Fisheries, the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, community groups and industry members.