The good and the bad about the bairdi Tanner crab

Kodiak and the surrounding areas got some mixed news about the bairdi Tanner crab fishery scheduled to open Jan. 15.

The good news is that the fishery will not be totally closed, and the quota is the same as it was the last time it opened in 2013. However, there are only two areas open between Kodiak and the southern Alaska Peninsula, both in Kodiak.

Under current regulations, there must be enough male crab in two Kodiak districts to allow for at least a 100,000 pound harvest per district, and a combined total of 400,000 pounds.

This year, those areas are the Eastside and the Southwest districts, with 260,000 pounds and 140,000 pounds, respectively. Also by regulation there is an additional area that automatically opens when the Southwest district or Chignik is open: the Semidi Islands overlap district. According to Kodiak assistant area management biologist Natura Richardson, there is not a lot of effort expected there.

“That section doesn’t have a lot of crab, there’s no (Guideline Harvest Level), so it’s kind of exploratory,” she said.

There is also a 70 pot limit for the area, compared with a 20 pot limit for the other areas.

The future is mixed for the fishery, Richardson said. The crab seem to go through “pulses” of population growth.

“We’ve been watching this pulse of juveniles since 2013, this huge pulse that has been moving through the population,” she said. “This is the first year that we’re seeing that pulse come through (as harvestable males). Based on what we’ve seen in the past there’s a pulse about every six years. So this year we think we’re going to see a surplus of the adult males, potentially next year as well.”

After that, she expects a lull, although there are more juveniles on the horizon. How big that population gets remains to be seen.

Chignik and the Alaska Peninsula saw the same pulse in 2013, but for some reason they never made it into the adult population.

“They diminished more than we thought; they didn’t come through like we thought they would,” Richardson said.

She added that the pulse diminished more rapidly in Kodiak than was expected as well, but there was enough for a harvest. Tanner crab do not molt in perpetuity like king crab do. After they hit legal size they stop growing, and remain in the fishery only another two to four years.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.

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