Fishing industry and researchers team up to track red king crab seasonal movements to provide data vital to keeping the Bristol Bay fishery sustainable in a changing climate
Alaska red king crab and the perils that fishermen face to catch them have gained worldwide fame. But fishermen are also working hard, together with NOAA Fisheries, to keep red king crab populations healthy and sustainable.
Reasons for declines in Bristol Bay red king crab stocks over the last decade are not well understood. Very little is known about how recent environmental variability drives crab seasonal movements, habitat use, and interactions with groundfish trawl fisheries.
NOAA Fisheries is partnering with the fishermen-supported nonprofit Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation to find answers to these unknowns. We are launching research to track the movements of adult male red king crabs in Bristol Bay using an unmanned surface drone (Saildrone, Inc.). Their findings will provide information crucial to keeping red king crab sustainable in a changing climate.
“So little is known about where crabs are and how they move. We have only snapshots from summer surveys. This research will fill in the life history gaps to better inform the management of red king crab as both target and bycatch,” said Scott Goodman of Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation.
“Managers need to understand where crabs go in different seasons, and what habitats are essential, to set effective rules for fishing,” said NOAA Fisheries scientist Leah Zacher, who is leading the project. “Everyone benefits from increasing our knowledge of crab distributions.”