Harvest Strategy Approved for PWS Tanner Crab

A harvest strategy critical to future tanner crab fisheries in Prince William Sound was approved by the Alaska Board of Fisheries during its statewide king and tanner crab meeting in Anchorage in late March.

Proposal 268, from Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU), amends state regulations for tanner crab in Prince William Sound specifying conditions under which a commercial fishery may occur. It also establishes a sport fishery for tanner crab there as well, when the threshold level is reached for mature male abundance.

The proposal says that a harvest strategy should be formulated from the trawl survey data.

The Cordova commercial fishermen’s group said thresholds above which a commercial fishery could occur, as well as guideline harvest levels, can be determined conservatively using the same format and formulas used for the Eastern Aleutians District tanner crab harvest strategy in the Westward Area, which supports a small commercial tanner crab fishery in most years.

Until the board’s action, Prince William Sound was the only area in Alaska with a stock assessment for tanner crab, but no harvest strategy in regulation.

Tanner crab abundance in Prince William Sound has been increasing and with the harvest strategy in place a commercial fishery there could offer economic opportunity to local fishermen and communities, CDFU said.

There has not been a commercial tanner crab fishery in Prince William Sound since the late 1980s because of the lack of abundance, noted Glenn Haight, executive director of the fisheries board.

Proposal 267, from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, also supports creation of a harvest strategy and amending regulations for tanner crab in Prince William Sound specifying conditions under which the commercial fishery could occur and also reducing the legal size limit in the subsistence tanner crab fishery.

The board also approved a number of other proposals, including a 20-pot per vessel limit on the South Peninsula tanner crab fishery.

Haight said that the board planned to take a harder look at the Bering Sea tanner crab harvest strategy during a meeting in mid-May.