Look out, king crab: Juneau area fishery opens for first time in six years

Greg Gallant and his fishing partner, Kodi, show off their king crab catch in August 2009. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Starting today, Juneauites will have the chance to catch king crab in the waters surrounding their backyards. It’s the first time in six years a winter personal use fishery has been opened in Juneau area waters.

 

A total of 1,965 king crab have been allocated for the fishery. That’s up from 1,300 crab when the fishery was last opened in 2011.

“I would say it’s on the higher end of what we’ve had for a winter fishery allocation,” said Karla Bush, Southeast Region Shellfish and Groundfish Program Coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Personal use red and blue king crab fishing is typically open in other areas close to Juneau, but not in the areas surrounding the city, where low populations have kept the fishery closed.

Fish and Game bases the number of crab allocated to the survey off science which tells them how many crab can be harvested without adversely affecting the population. Population surveys done earlier this year showed a healthy enough population to harvest, Bush said, so ADF&G decided to open the fishery.

The decision is “predicated on whether or not the population looks healthy,” Bush explained, as well as an estimation of how many people will pursue the crab. Only if the population is healthy and the amount of surplus crab is high enough to not risk being overharvested by Juneau’s fishermen, then Fish and Game will open the fishery.

King crab fishing will be open from 8 a.m. today until 8 p.m. March 31 or until the crab quota of 1,965 crab have been caught. The fishery was announced last week in a release.

King crab fishing was open for less than a week earlier this year. Bush said the Alaska Board of Fisheries decided to split the openings into a summer and winter season to allow divers a chance to catch crab, which only come within a diver’s reach in the winter.

Crabbers will have to obtain a household permit from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Douglas office. Those 18 years and older will also have to hold a valid sport fishing license. If the fishery spills into 2018, those harvesting crab will be required to purchase a new sport fishing license. Household permits aren’t available online, but they are free.

Each household — which ADF&G defines as those residing at the same address — will be allowed six male red or blue king crab during the season. A household may only catch two male crab per day and have two in possession. Household permits must be returned at the end of the season.

King crab fishers are allowed to use one pot or two ring nets per vessel, Bush explained. Importantly, those gear limitations apply to fishers targeting other species of crab in Section 11-A. That regulation is intended to curtail unlawful taking of king crab: Pots and ring nets can catch both species, so those targeting tanner or Dungeness crab may accidentally catch king crab as well.

Section 11-A includes the waters of Gastineau Channel, Stephens Passage and Lynn Canal north of a line from the Coast Guard marker and light on Point Arden to Bishop Point at 58°12.33’ north latitude and 134° 10.00’ west longitude, and south of a line at the latitude of Little Island Light at 58°32.41 north latitude, and east of a line from Little Island Light to Point Retreat Light.

Information regarding the red and blue king crab personal use fishery outside Section 11-A may be found in the Sept. 18 news release. Current regulations on personal use red and blue king crab fishing can be found at http://www.akleg.gov/basis/aac.asp#5.77.664.

Those with questions can contact the Douglas Fish and Game office at 465-4250.


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com.


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