A stock assessment survey well below the minimum threshold has prompted closure of the Southeast Alaska commercial red king crab fishery for 2013/2014, say biologists for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The Southeast Alaska red king crab management plant directs the department to close the fishery if the estimate of available harvest is below the minimum threshold of 200,000 pounds of legal male red king crab. The estimate of available harvest based on 2013 stock assessment survey results is well below the minimum threshold, state biologists said in late September.
“We are not seeing any recruitment,” said Joe Stratman, a biologist with the department at Petersburg. The area’s last red king crab commercial fishery was held in 2011, he said.
The region’s golden king crab fishery, which is divided into seven fishery management areas, has a regional guideline harvest level of 590,000 pounds for this season, down from the 625,000-pound guideline harvest level for the last three-year period, he said. The regional GHL for golden king crab can go up to 800,000 pounds.
Regionally, the biomass of mature male red king crab has been declining since 2001, and is currently at its lowest level in 23 years, biologists said.
Six of eight survey areas exhibited poor stock health in this year’s stock assessment survey, and the other two survey areas exhibited stock health well below average.
The biomass estimates for legal and mature red king crab for the Southeast region are 0.74 million pounds and 0.91 million pounds respectively for the 2013/2014 season. This is virtually the same amount of mature crab estimated in 2012.
These legal and mature biomass estimates have also been adjusted to incorporate mark/recapture assessments for seven areas in total. Generally, the regional biomass estimate did not increase or decrease significantly from last season, with a less than 1 percent change in legal biomass region-wide, and only a 6 percent decrease in mature biomass.
Areas surveyed include Pybus Bay, Gambier Bay, Seymour Canal, Peril Strait, the Juneau area, Lynn Sisters, Excursion Inlet, Port Frederick, and Holkham Bay.