The red king crab egg-bearing broodstock for the project were captured in pots in Alitak Bay on Kodiak Island, and transported to the NOAA lab in Kodiak before being shipped to Seward. Hatching of the larvae began in early March, and biologists stocked over 400,000 larvae in 1,200-liter tanks during that month.
Larvae from many females are being raised to maximize the genetic diversity of larvae reared at the hatchery. Larvae eat enriched Artemiaand microalgae.
After molting to the first juvenile stage, the red king crab are scheduled to go to Kodiak for the third year of experimental release of hatchery-raised juveniles to the natural environment, for the purpose of learning more about release strategies and natural dispersion.
The blue king crab larvae were collected near St. Matthew Island sent to Seward. When they began to hatch in mid-March, 15,000 larvae were stocked into rearing tanks.
Blue king crab have fewer offspring than red king crab, and the blue king crab broodstock incubate their embryos for two years instead of one. Monitoring of embryo development and female behavior of the blue king crab will continue this summer with two females that will hatch their larvae next year, biologists said.
The research program is sponsored by the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, NOAA Fisheries, the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, along with several community groups, industry members and Alaska Sea Grant.
More information on the program is online at www.seagrant.uaf.edu.