A crab fishery that's been closed for two years opened recently with limited fishing grounds and reduced catch limits.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game opened the red and blue king crab personal-use fishery in limited areas of Southeast Alaska on July 29.
Personal use fishing is for people who harvest for their own consumption.
The waters immediately surrounding Juneau, known by fishermen as area 11A, are not included in the opening.
Catch limits are reduced from previous years to two or three male crabs per person, depending on the area fished. The limit in past years had been six.
Fishermen in Southeast Alaska have not been able to keep red and blue king crabs since 2007, when the fishery was closed due to stock assessment surveys that showed regionwide declines in their numbers.
But the fishery was quietly opened again when Fish and Game posted an announcement under the commercial fisheries section of its Web site.
That's where Juneau fisherman Greg Gallant learned about it. He caught several kings last week fishing with his dog, Kodi, north of Eagle Beach.
Portions of fishing grounds to the west and north of 11A - 12B, 15B and 15C - are open, but eight survey areas within these grounds remain closed. These include areas in or near St. James Bay, Tracy Arm, Gambier Bay, Pybus Bay, Port Frederick, Seymour Canal, Peril Straight and Excursion Inlet.
Additional details on which areas are closed can be found in the department's announcement.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries adopted changes in January that allowed Fish and Game to establish lower bag limits and open parts of the region to fishing.
Surveys in recent years have indicated there are fewer red and blue king crab in the region, causing Fish and Game to give the species a "poor" health designation and close the fishery.
The 2008 survey showed a slight improvement in the number of mature males, and another survey in June showed them to be at or near the long-term average. Young males and females were at or near their lowest levels on record, however.
Fish and Game will complete its 2009 king crab assessment survey this month and decide in a few weeks how long the personal-use season will remain open, Fish and Game biologist Adam Messmer said.
For more information, contact Messmer at 907-465-4853 or biologist Joe Stratman at 907-772-5238.
Personal use and commercial fishing for king crab in area 11A will remain closed for the year, Fish and Game said.
Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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