My Turn: King crab catastrophe in the making

Posted: Tuesday, September 03, 2002

I remember a time when you could not fish for king crab in the waters surrounding the Juneau area. While many of the "smart guys" at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game point to disease as the cause for the depletion of king crab, anyone with a grain of logic could see that it was commercial over-harvest that decimated the crab population.

Now, the nincompoops in charge of the so-called "management" of Alaska's fish & game resources are closing the personal-use king crab fishery immediately adjacent to Juneau (area 11a). This alone would seem to dictate that commercial opening in this area in unwarranted. The interest of the 30,000 personal users in Juneau should greatly outweigh the interest of 100 or so king crab permit holders (most of which are from Petersburg). Many of these permit holders were the same resource rapists responsible for the decimation of king crab stocks in the '70s. The DF&G "smart guys" think it should be split 50-50 in the area right next to Juneau.

Most of the area in Southeast Alaska is covered by a personal use king crab limit of six crabs per day with no annual limit. The area around Juneau is covered by a limit of two crabs per day with a 20 crab per household limit.

In the Juneau area, personal users are required to tote around an 8.5 x 14 sheet of paper to record all of the crab caught, but none of the other personal use areas require such reporting. So, somebody has figured out that the crab population around Juneau endures greater personal use fishing pressure. Unfortunately, the political pressures from greedy commercial interests have resulted in DF&G "good ol' boys" scheduling yet another commercial slaughter in Juneau's back yard later this year. Last year during the commercial opening, there was a big commercial crab pot every 100 yards in every direction from Outer Point to Skull Island. Any 10-year old could tell you that the area around Juneau cannot withstand a commercial harvest along with the personal use harvest.

Well, something has got to give. By closing the personal use season, DF&G is sending a strong message that the personal use fishers are the citizens who will be forced to make way for the money-grubbing commercial crab interests.

Well, it really shouldn't be too surprising considering that you have to go to the Division of Commercial Fisheries to get your personal use king crab permit. Bottom line, there are plenty of other places where the commercial fleet can fish that are more than 15 miles from Auke Bay.

So, maybe we should let DF&G give all the crab to the commercial interests until there is suddenly a "unexplained" catastrophic decline in king crab, thus causing yet another moratorium. Or, maybe the personal users should flex their political muscle to get DF&G to realize that the Juneau are should be off-limits the commercial king crab harvest.

Michael Fleming is a longtime Juneau resident who enjoys fishing and hunting in Alaska.

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