BOF will take up PWS crab issues in March

Proposal from CDFU urges use of trawl survey to develop harvest strategy

Seven proposals for Prince William Sound are among the 38 proposals on king and tanner crab up for discussion when the Alaska Board of Fisheries meets in Anchorage March 20-24.

Proposal 268 from Cordova District Fishermen United would create a harvest strategy and amend regulations for tanner crab in Prince William Sound specifying conditions under which the commercial fishery may occur and establish a sport fishery and also establishing a sport fishery for tanner crab.

CDFU’s proposal notes that it has been 27 years since the last tanner crab fishery in Prince William Sound, and that the CDFU board feels that adoption of a commercial harvest strategy for tanner crab should be formulated from the trawl survey data.

Thresholds above which a commercial fishery could occur and guideline harvest levels can be determined conservatively using the same format and formulas used for the Eastern Aleutians District tanner crab harvest strategy in the Westward Area, which supports a small community tanner crab fishery in most years, CDFU contends in its proposal.

ADF&G has been conducting a trawl survey and producing abundance estimates for tanner crab in Prince William Sound since 1992, but has failed to produce a harvest strategy, the proposal says. The proposal further notes that under current regulations the commercial harvest of tanner crab in Prince William Sound is to remain closed until the Board of Fisheries adopts a harvest strategy.

Prince William Sound is the only area in the state that has a stock assessment for tanner crab and no harvest strategy in regulation. At the 2014 statewide king and tanner crab Board of Fisheries meeting, ADF&G promised that the agency would prepare a harvest strategy for consideration at the 2017 statewide king and tanner crab meeting.

Meanwhile, tanner crab abundance has been increasing in Prince William Sound as documented through ADF&G trawl surveys and subsistence harvests since 2008, and with a properly crafts harvest strategy, a commercial fishery in Prince William Sound could provide economic opportunity to local fishermen and communities, CDFU said.

The proposal further contends that with more cuts anticipated in ADF&G’s budget due to the state’s fiscal status, fishery surveys are being eliminated and surveys conducted by the agency’s commercial fisheries division that have no commercial fishery associated with them are most likely to be cut.

“If a harvest strategy is not adopted now, we risk the loss of the survey and with it any hope for a commercial tanner crab fishery in Prince William Sound’ it is imperative that we use the data from the trawl survey to create a harvest strategy now,” the proposal said.

Public comments submitted by Feb. 27 will be included in the board’s workbook before the meeting.  After Feb. 27, written public comments are limited to 10 single sided or five double sided pages in length from any one individual or group.

They will be recorded as record copies and inserted in board member workbooks at the start of the meeting and accepted throughout the board meeting.

Another proposal by Cordova harvester Robert Smith also calls for a commercial tanner crab fishery in the Western District of Prince William Sound, with vessels to be limited to 25 pots.

ADF&G has since 1991 relied solely on its trawl survey for its data regarding tanner crab stocks in Area E of Prince William Sound, which encompasses some 13,000 square nautical miles, Smith said. Vast swaths of Area E have neither been fished nor surveyed nor managed in any manner for three decades.

The agency, he said, appears to be acting in contradiction to the tanner and king crab policy established by the fisheries board, which states as one of its goals “providing a sustained and reliable supply of high quality product to the industry and customers which will provide substantial and stable employment in all sectors of the economy relating to these fisheries.”

Copes of all seven Prince William Sound king and tanner crab proposals, and all other proposals before the fisheries board at this meeting are posted online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo&date=03-20 2017&meeting=anchorage

All portions of the meeting are open to the public and a live audio stream is intended to be available at www.boardoffisheries.adfg.alaska.gov.

Copies of advance meeting materials, including the agenda and roadmap, are available for the Boards Support Section, by calling 1-907-465-4110 or online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo