Alaska commercial fishing groups donate to king crab research



NR: SG-2011/NR324

Fairbanks, Alaska—Alaska commercial fishing groups have donated $25,000 to support research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences to grow king crab in hatcheries.

The research is aimed at learning whether it's feasible to use hatcheries to rebuild wild king crab stocks in places such as Kodiak Island and the Pribilof Islands.

The Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology (AKCRRAB) program is using the funds to complete this year's efforts to raise red and blue king crab at the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward, Alaska. The juvenile crab will be used in research studies in Juneau, Kodiak, and Newport, Oregon. The Alaska Sea Grant College Program at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences coordinates AKCRRAB, which is a partnership of university and federal researchers with Alaska coastal communities, fishermen, and the seafood industry.

"The industry funds are especially important as we complete efforts to raise the king crab born this past spring to the first juvenile stage," said David Christie, director of Alaska Sea Grant.

The juvenile crab will be shipped to researchers studying crab habitat preferences, predator relationships and avoidance, and genetics.

The contributors are the Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation (BSFRF), the Central Bering Sea Fishermen's Association (CBSFA), the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association (APICDA), and the Groundfish Forum.

BSFRF is a nonprofit research foundation funded by both industry stakeholders and management agencies to provide a means for industry members, fisheries managers and crab scientists to interact.

CBSFA is the fisheries development organization for St. Paul Island in the Pribilof Islands under the Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) system.

APICDA is a nonprofit and the CDQ entity that works to develop economic opportunities for communities in the Aleutian Islands and St. George Island in the Pribilof Islands.

The Groundfish Forum is a trade association that represents six trawl companies that harvest flatfish, mackerel and cod in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.

The fishing companies may be eligible to use the Alaska Higher Education Tax Credit, an incentive program that allows companies to take up to a $5 million tax credit when they donate to the University of Alaska.

Steve Hughes, executive director of the Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation, said private–public funding mechanisms are important to fishermen and the region's long-term interest in rebuilding king crab stocks.

"The Bering Sea crab catch-share program has vested harvesters, processors, and crab communities in the long-term success of the crab resources off the coast of Alaska. It's because of this important relationship that we, as fishermen, help with research that has the potential to revitalize those crab fisheries that are presently not recovered," he said.

Hughes said that AKCRRAB research has significantly improved understanding of early life history of Bering Sea king crab stocks, and has "increased the stewardship commitment among the industry."

AKCRRAB research is focused on responding to coastal communities' and fishermen's desire to restore crab stocks in parts of Alaska. Around Kodiak Island, scene of what was for decades one of the largest red king crab fisheries in the world, commercial fishing for the giant crustacean has been closed since 1983. In the Pribilof Islands, the on-again, off-again fishing for blue king crab has been off again since about 2006, due to low numbers of reproducing adult blue king crabs.

In September 2010, Santa Monica Seafood, the largest seafood retailer in the U.S. Southwest, donated $10,000 to the AKCRRAB program.

The industry donations were deposited into the Alaska King Crab Research Fund, an account managed by the UA Foundation.

The Alaska Sea Grant College Program is a statewide marine research, education, communication, and extension service at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Alaska Sea Grant is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and private industry.

The Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program is a statewide university extension and technical assistance program that helps Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy Alaska's marine and coastal resources.