Research aimed at boosting stocks of Kodiak red king crab will take a big step forward this fall, with the experimental release of thousands of hatchery-raised juveniles at Cozy Cove near Old Harbor on Kodiak Island. Biologists hope to measure the effects of release density on the growth and survival of juvenile crab in their first year.
Biologists at the Kodiak laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will monitor the field sites to determine the best density for potential future releases. There will also be trawl surveys to estimate predator abundance and tethering experiments to help determine relative predation risks to the juvenile crab.
Meanwhile, at the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward, some 360,000 Kodiak red king crab larvae are stocked in six 1,200 liter tanks.
The larvae are feeding on enriched Artemia and microalgae that biologists say yielded the highest hatchery survival rate in previous years. According to the biologists with the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology Program, also known as AKCRRAB, the larvae are now reaching the last larval stage – glaucothoe.
The biologists say this is the first year of a planned multiyear set of experiments designed to develop optimal release strategies for red king crab, and to estimate the economic efficiency of a possible wild release program.
The Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology program is a research and rehabilitation project sponsored by community groups, industry members, NOAA Fisheries, the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, and the Alaska Sea Grant College Program. Its goal is to enhance depressed king crab populations throughout Alaska.
Partners also include the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Chugach Regional Resources Commission, Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., and the United Fishermen’s Marketing Association at Kodiak.
Other supporters and sponsors include Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, the Alaska Legislature, Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation, the Groundfish Forum, Gulf of Alaska Coastal Communities Coalition, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Kodiak Island Borough, the cities of Kodiak and Seward, the Pribilof Island communities of St. Paul and St. George, Santa Monica Seafoods, and United Fishermen of Alaska.
More information is at http://seagrant.uaf.edu/research/projects/initiatives/king-crab/general/