Board declines to close additional area to commercial Dungy crabbers

Echo Cove, Funter Bay and Taku Harbor will remain open

Posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A bid to close three bays around Juneau to commercial Dungeness crabbing was quashed by the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

The board voted Friday afternoon in Ketchikan to keep Echo Cove, Funter Bay and Taku Harbor open to commercial Dungeness fishermen.

This was good news for crabbers such as Dick Gregg of Swanson Harbor. Two-thirds of the productive Dungeness crab grounds around Juneau already are off-limits to the commercial fleet, Gregg said Monday.

"(Personal-use fishermen) shouldn't have exclusive access to the live crab in the Juneau area," said Gregg, who sells crabs in town.

Some personal-use crabbers, however, were unhappy with the board's rejection of their proposals.

"We are disappointed," said Gordon Harrison, a Juneau personal-use fisherman who asked the board in written testimony to either eliminate or limit commercial Dungeness crabbing in Funter Bay.

No personal-use fishermen testified in person in Ketchikan on behalf of their closure proposals.

"Frankly, we weren't expecting much (from the board) ... and it's an expensive, complicated business to get down there and testify," explained Harrison, who owns a cabin in Funter Bay.

Harrison and other personal-use fishermen claim the local bays in early spring are too crowded with commercial gear and get fished out by the time most personal-use fishermen start putting out their pots. The personal-use season is year-round, whereas commercial crabbers fish two months in the summer and two months in the fall.

One person, Kathy Hansen of Juneau, testified on behalf of keeping the Juneau-area bays open to commercial crabbers.

Hansen said she spoke on behalf of the Southeast Alaska Fishermen's Alliance, which represents commercial gear groups, and the Juneau-Douglas Fish and Game Advisory Committee, which she heads.

Hansen said the board rejected a proposal from commercial crabbers that might have eased some of the potential for crowding in certain bays in Southeast Alaska, particularly in key crabbing areas near Wrangell.

Commercial crabbers had proposed reducing the number of Dungeness pots per boat to 200, she said. They are currently allowed to use up to 300 pots per boat under state law.

"Part of the reason that (Juneau residents) are seeing more pots is because (commercial) guys are feeling crowded in some key areas and are looking to spread out more," Hansen said. But the proposal failed because the board didn't see a biological basis for reducing the pots, Hansen said.

The Board of Fisheries deliberated on shellfish and groundfish regulatory proposals for Southeast Alaska from last Monday until Sunday afternoon.

In other Dungeness proposals: The board voted 5-0 to close a small spot at the head of Chaik Bay, south of Angoon, to the commercial Dungeness fleet; and it voted 5-0 to retain commercial crabbing for Dungeness in a portion of Taiya Inlet.

The personal-use proposal to close Echo Cove failed 1-4, the Taku Harbor proposal failed 0-5 and the Funter Bay proposal failed 0-5.

Productive Dungeness crab spots around Juneau already closed to the Juneau-area crab fleet include Auke Bay, Gastineau Channel, Eagle River, Lena Cove, Bridget Cove and Tee Harbor.

The fact that these Dungeness crab grounds were already off-limits "was part of the board's rationale" for not closing additional bays, said Kyle Hebert, the Southeast Alaska marine fisheries supervisor for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Commercial Fisheries Division.

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at elizabeth.bluemink@juneauempire.com.



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