Evaluators of a commercial fisheries gear project involving pots designed to retain all crab have concluded that golden king crab stocks around the Aleutian Islands are not just stable, but thriving.
The announcement in late May came from the Aleutian King Crab Research Foundation, whose supporters operate five vessels in the Aleutian Islands golden king crab fishery.
The results were very clear, said Denby Lloyd, a former Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game who is now the science advisor for the foundation.
“The regular pots caught good numbers of legal sized crab and the research pots right next to them caught as many or more legals, and very large numbers of small crab,” Lloyd said. “The research pots caught an abundance of recruit and pre-recruit males and lots of females as well.”
Fishery managers will use the data to help provide information for stock assessments, and while more research is needed, the outlook for more Aleutian king crab is good, Lloyd said. “Golden king crab from the Aleutian Islands might soon compete with Bristol Bay reds for Alaska’s largest king crab fishery,” he added.
It is so remote and so expensive to do research and biological assessments that there is no ongoing assessment, he said.
The golden king crab fishery opens on Aug. 15 and closes on May 15, but normally the fishery in the eastern area is completed by the end of the year at the latest, and the western area fishery usually wraps up in April, according to Linda Kozak, a spokesperson for the research foundation.
The ex-vessel value of the fishery is about $24 million, while the first wholesale value is around $118 million, she said.
Markets are primarily domestic at present, but other market opportunities for live crab shipments to other countries may be available, Kozak said.
Harvesters are currently working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to conduct research on attempting to determine some idea of stock age distribution.