First red king crab release
Researchers Chris Long and Peter Cummiskey get ready to go into the water to count crabs the day after the release. Click image for larger version [4.3 MB].
NOAA researchers achieved the first experimental release of hatchery-reared red king crabs in Alaska on September 25, 2013, to assess the importance of outstocking density on survival. The juvenile crabs, from broodstock (egged females) collected at Alitak Bay, Kodiak Island, were reared at the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery and transported to the NOAA Kodiak Laboratory. The release site, at Cozy Cove near the village of Old Harbor on Kodiak Island, was selected because it is well sheltered with plenty of red king crab habitat.
To begin the release process, researchers created 12 plots on a transect line along the shoreline at a constant depth of 30 feet. Each plot was 5 x 5 meters (25 m2) and was marked with a square of ground-line held in place with rebar stakes. Plots were positioned 10 m from each other. Juvenile red king crabs were counted out for each plot, transported to the bottom in individual containers, and released by divers; in all, nearly 5,000 crabs were released for the experiment. Surveys made just before the release showed the area to be devoid of juvenile red king crabs, whereas the day after the release red king crab juveniles were present in the plots, indicating that the initial release of crabs was successful. Researchers will continue to monitor the release sites to estimate how well the crabs survive in the wild.
News Flash is edited by Asia Beder and Ginny Eckert. AKCRRAB, the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology Program, is sponsored by Alaska Sea Grant, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, NOAA Fisheries, the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, community groups, and industry members.