Four entities with ties to commercial fisheries in the Bering Sea have donated a total of $25,000 to support University of Alaska Fairbanks research to grow king crab in hatcheries. The combined funds from the Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation, Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, and the Groundfish Forum went to the Alaska King Crab Research Rehabilitation and Biology program.
The overall research is aimed at determining the feasibility of using hatcheries to rebuild wild king crab stocks in areas like Kodiak and the Pribilof Islands.
Kodiak Island, once the scene of one of the largest red king crab fisheries in the world, has been closed to red king crab fishing since 1983. In the Pribilof Islands, the on again, off again fishing for blue king crab has been off again since about 2006, due to low numbers of reproducing adult blue king crab.
These funds will be used to complete this year’s effort to raise red and blue king crab at the Alutiiq Price Shellfish Hatchery in Seward. The juvenile crab will be used in research studies in Juneau, Kodiak and Newport, Oregon. The studies are coordinated by the Alaska Sea Grant College Program at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean sciences, in a partnership of university and federal researchers with Alaska coastal communities, fishermen and the seafood industry. Sea Grant announced the donation on Aug. 9.
Steve Hughes, executive director of the Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation, said private- public funding mechanisms are important to fishermen and the region’s long-term interest in rebuilding king crab stocks.
Hughes said the Bering Sea crab catch-share program has vested harvesters, processors and crab communities in the long-term success of the crab resources off the coast of Alaska. This research has significantly improved understanding of early life history of Bering Sea king crab stocks, and increased the stewardship commitment among the industry.