Petersburg . . . The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that the commercial golden king crab fishery in the East Central and Northern Areas will close at 12:00 noon, Monday, March 21, 2016. These areas are being closed prior to the completion of the 2016 guideline harvest level (GHL) in response to continued declines in fishery performance and recruitment of golden king crab. These declines are similar to the early to mid-1990s when the department routinely closed fishing areas before harvests reached GHLs. A detailed justification for the closure of each area is provided below.
East Central Area
The established preseason GHL for golden king crab in East Central was 30,000 pounds. Through March 10, 2016, approximately 6,895 pounds (23% of the GHL) have been harvested by 10 vessels. Average CPUE was 3.7 crab per pot in East Central from 2000 to 2015. The average 2016 CPUE is 0.7 crab per pot, or 19% of the historical average and the lowest on record. To date, an average of 33 pounds of golden king crab per boat/per day has been landed, the lowest on record since logbooks were implemented, and well below the 2000–2015 average of 594 pounds per boat/per day.
Port sampling data show a decline in the percentage of recruit crab, from a recent peak of 53% during the 2008/2009 season, to 23% in 2016. The average contribution from the recruit portion of the stock for the period 1970–2015 from port sampling data is 36%.
The established preseason GHL for golden king crab in the Northern Area was 15,000 pounds. Through March 10, 2016, approximately 4,121 pounds (27% of the GHL) have been harvested by six vessels. Average CPUE was 2.9 crab per pot in Northern from 2000 to 2015. The average 2016 CPUE (1.1 crab per pot) is 38% of the average for the past 16 seasons and second lowest on record since the inception of logbooks. Before logbooks (prior to 2000) in seasons with comprehensive effort data, only the 1978/1979 season recorded a lower CPUE. An average of 33 pounds of golden king crab per boat/per day was landed to date in 2016, second only to the 2014/2015 season as the lowest on record since logbooks, and well below the 2000–2015 average of 230 pounds per boat/per day.
Port sampling data show the percentage of recruit crab to the harvest in Northern has declined, from a recent peak of 50% during the 1997/1998 season, to 10% this season. The average contribution from the recruit portion of the stock for the period 1971–2015 from port sampling data is 20%.
Remaining Open Areas
The Icy Strait, Mid-Chatham Strait, Lower Chatham Strait, Southern, and North Stephens Passage Areas will remain open until further notice. The department will continue to monitor fishery performance in these remaining areas. Additional management actions may be taken as necessary and the department will provide as much advance notice as possible for future specific area closures. An analysis of harvest ticket/logbook and port sampling data will be conducted beginning in April for all remaining fishery areas that haven’t reached their respective GHLs.
A vessel may leave gear in a stored condition for five days after the closure of a portion of Registration Area A [5 AAC 34.127(2)]. All gear must be removed from the East Central and Northern Areas no later than 12:00 noon, March 26, 2016.
The Emergency Order corresponding with this announcement is EO 1C0516.