For the first time since 2013, Kodiak crabbers might be able to drop pots for Tanners in mid-January.
“I’d say it’s the best chance we’ve had in the last five years,” said Nat Nichols, area shellfish/groundfish manager at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Kodiak.
Crab stocks must reach strict number thresholds before a fishery is allowed to open. Preliminary data from the summer survey indicate that two Kodiak districts might have enough legal sized males — the only crabs that can be retained — to allow for a fishery.
“We will be looking very closely at the southwest and eastside to see if we can get to an exploitation rate that we are comfortable with and also gets us above that minimum 400,000 pound harvest guideline,” Nichols explained.
The survey showed slight improvements at Chignik and the South Peninsula, but Nichols said again no Tanner fisheries will open there.
It takes Tanner crabs six to seven years to reach a legal, two-pound size. Nichols said he believes Kodiak has a shot at a small fishery for the next two years.
“After that, it looks like we might have a gap for a year or three before we get to the next recruitment pulse that would lead to a fishery,” he said, adding that there are encouraging signs for the future.
“We are seeing a good bit of small crab in the water again this year,” he said, “but they are several years out from being legal.”
ADF&G will announce the fate of a 2018 fishery on November 1.