The Council took final action to adopt a rebuilding plan for St Matthew Island blue king crab and recommend a preferred alternative for Secretarial Action (Alternative 2/Option 2) that is projected to rebuild the stock within the time required under the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s National Standard 1, while also providing affected communities with the possibility of directed harvest during rebuilding. The rebuilding timeframe for the Council’s preferred alternative is expected to be protracted (25.5 years), mostly due to the low recruitment that could occur if current, unfavorable ecosystem conditions continue. Environmental stressors affecting survival and recruitment are considered to be the dominant factors in the decline of the stock and in stock recovery, rather than directed fishing or bycatch, and the possibility exists that rebuilding may never occur.
If conditions improve so that the fishery can be opened under the Council’s preferred alternative, stock biomass would have to have recovered to a minimum threshold (50% of the average 1978-2012 biomass) as specified in the State of Alaska’s St Matthew Island blue king crab harvest strategy.
Every two years during rebuilding, progress on stock recovery will be reported by NMFS to the Secretary of Commerce. Additionally, directed harvest (if it occurs), bycatch, and ecosystem conditions will be monitored throughout rebuilding so that the contributions of these factors to rebuilding progress can be assessed.
The Council was notified that the stock was overfished in October 2018, which started a two-year process for implementing a rebuilding plan. Initial review occurred at the December 2019 Council meeting, and final action at this meeting will allow implementation to occur before the October 22, 2020 deadline. Staff contact is Jim Armstrong.