A Tanner crab fishery opens on Jan. 15 in the Makushin/Skan Bay section of the Eastern Aleutian District, but is to remain closed in the Akutan and Unalaska/Kalekta Bay sections for lack of sufficient mature male abundance.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists said the 2022 survey of estimated mature male abundance managed to exceed regulatory thresholds necessary for a commercial crab season in the Makushin/Skan section and calculated guideline harvest level (GHL). That 2023 fishery now has a GHL of 49,000 pounds.
A commercial Tanner crab fishery may occur when estimated abundance of mature male Tanner crab meets or exceeds stock size thresholds established in regulation and requires a GHL of at least 10,000 pounds in the Makushin/Skan Bay and Akutan Sections and 15,000 pounds in the Unalaska/Kaleta Bay Section.
The number of vessels that preseason register will be used to establish the pot limit for the 2023 season. Information regarding pot limits, buoy tag sales, tank inspections and in season catch reporting is to be released via advisory announcements after the preseason registration deadline.
The fishery will be monitored in season with closure prior to achieving the GHL if preseason expectations of fishery performance are not met. Vessels fishing for Tanner crab in the Eastern Aleutian District are limited to 58 feet or less in overall length.
Last time Makushin/Skan Bay was open for a commercial fishery, based on summer survey results, was 2018. Ethan Nichols, an assistant area management biologist at Dutch Harbor, said that this year they saw an increase in the number of mature male abundance that added up to the highest in the trawl survey time series for 1990 to 2022.
“We have experienced some cooler water temperatures in the last few years, and without a doubt, colder waters are more favorable for Tanner crab, but Tanner crab in general are pretty cyclical in their abundance,” Nichols said.
Pacific cod in particular among groundfish prey on juvenile Tanner crab, but the summer surveys don’t include groundfish related to Tanner crab, so ADF&G can’t speak to predation on juvenile Tanner crab by Pacific cod or other groundfish, he said.
Still, he added, the department is excited to have a small fishery, given increases in abundance, with the harvest likely to be purchased by one of the Dutch Harbor processors.