For a general discussion of crab bycatch actions, see also the overview page.
Crabs are prohibited species in the Federal groundfish and scallop fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska, and must be discarded, so every crab caught incidentally is considered bycatch. Bycatch of crabs is relatively low in GOA fisheries compared to the BSAI. The average number of red king crabs taken incidentally in all GOA fisheries for 2003-2007 was 200 crabs. Bycatch of C. bairdi Tanner crab occurs primarily in the Pacific cod and flatfish trawl fisheries, and in the pot fishery for Pacific cod. Trawl fishery bycatch has fluctuated through time, reaching a high of 234,620 crabs in 2006 to a low of 29,947 crabs in 1999. The average percent contribution from 2003-2009 by gear type was 83% from trawl fisheries and 17% from pot fisheries. Crabs caught as bycatch in trawl fisheries are thought to have a higher mortality rate; in the scallop dredge and groundfish pot fisheries, mortality is considered to be lower.
Area closures have been adopted by the Council to protect both red king crab and Tanner crab in the GOA. PSC limits for crab species in GOA groundfish fisheries have not been established to date. Staff contact is Diana Evans: 907-271-2815.
Documents and Council Motions
- GOA trawl sweep modification discussion paper 2/10
- GOA Tanner crab area closures motion 10/10
- GOA Tanner crab area closures Public Review Draft 10/10
- GOA Tanner crab area closures motion 4/10
- GOA Tanner crab bycatch Initial Review Draft 4/10
- Chinook and Bairdi bycatch in GOA fisheries discussion paper – 10/09
- GOA Salmon and Crab bycatch discussion paper – 4/09
- Salmon and Crab bycatch in the GOA fisheries discussion paper – 12/08
- GOA salmon/crab bycatch discussion paper – 6/08
Area closures for GOA groundfish trawl and scallop fisheries
- In 2010, the Council adopted area closures for Tanner crab east and northeast Kodiak. Federal waters in Marmot Bay are closed year round to vessels fishing with nonpelagic trawl. In two other designated areas, Chiniak Gully and ADF&G statistical area 525702, vessels with nonpelagic trawl gear can only fish if they have 100% observer coverage. To fish in any of the three areas, vessels fishing with pot gear must have minimum 30% observer coverage.
- The Kodiak red king crab closures, Type 1 and Type II, were established in 1993 because of the poor condition of the king crab resource off Kodiak. Type I areas have very high king crab concentrations and are closed all year to all trawling except with pelagic gear. Type II areas are only closed to non-pelagic gear from February 15 through June 15, during the molting period, as trawl bycatch and crab mortality rates are highest during the spring months when king crab migrate inshore for reproduction.
- Year-round scallop closures to scallop dredging, dating from 1995, were intended to reduce high bycatch of crab and avoid and protect biologically critical areas such as nursery areas for groundfish and shellfish.
- A year-round Southeast Alaska no trawl closure, which prohibits trawl fishing east of 140° W. was implemented in 1998.
- In 2000, the State of Alaska implemented a State water no commercial bottom trawling closure to protect nearshore habitats and species in State waters (0-3 nm).
- The Cook Inlet bottom trawl closure, implemented in 2001, prohibits non-pelagic trawling in Cook Inlet to control crab bycatch mortality and protect crab habitat in an area with depressed king and Tanner crab stocks.