A long-term research project aimed at improving the crab fishery at Kodiak Island has taken a big step forward with the first experimental release of hatchery-reared red king crab at Cozy Cove near the village of Old Harbor.
The area was selected because it is well sheltered, with plenty of red king crab habitat, said researchers with the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology program.
Juvenile crab, from broodstock collected at Alitak Bay, Kodiak Island, were reared at the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery and transported to the NOAA Kodiak Laboratory, and released into the water on Sept. 25, researchers announced Oct. 30.
To begin the release process, researchers created 12 plots on a transect line along the shoreline at a constant depth of 30 feet. Each five by five meter plot was marked with a square of ground-line held in place with rebar stakes, and plots were positioned 10 meters from each other.
Juvenile red king crab were counted out for each plot, transported to the bottom in individual containers, and released by divers. In all nearly 5,000 crab were released.
Surveys made just before the release showed the area was devoid of juvenile red king crab, but the day after the release red king crab juveniles were present in the plots, indicating that the initial release of the juvenile crab was successful.
Researchers will continue to monitor the sites to estimate how well the crab survive in the wild.
Sponsors of the program include community groups, industry members, the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, NOAA Fisheries, the University of Alaska School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, and Alaska Sea Grant.