Sixteen permit holders signed up, with 12 vessels making landings through March 13, in a commissioner’s permit Tanner crab fishery in the eastern and western districts of Prince William Sound that runs through March 31.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has been monitoring the fishery, with each vessel required to call in every day to report the statistical area where they are fishing, number of pots pulled, number of legal crab and sublegal crab caught.
Harvest data on the number of crab caught and poundage is to be summarized post season, as fish tickets are required to be turned in no later than seven days after landing, said Jan Rumble, area management biologist for groundfish and shellfish in Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound.
Rumble said ADF&G would also be analyzing fishery harvest data from the required logbooks to enable biologists to use GIS to spatially document harvest in these two districts and evaluate whether or not a potential future fishery in these areas is warranted.
The catch per unit of effort from the call-in reporting has averaged about 10 legal crab per pot, Rumble said. Much of the effort was focused in Statistical Area 486005, Icy Bay and Whale Bay. The CPUE dropped off significantly in the first week in that area and the reduction in CPUE prompted the department to close the area for the rest of the season.
A couple of vessels set pots on the outside of Montague and Hinchinbrook Islands and these pots produced very low catches.
Rumple said the department would continue to monitor the fishery with mandatory vessel call-in reports. A handful of vessels had stopped participating so they could move on to other fisheries, she said.
The fishery opened on March 1 and was expected to remain open through March 31, barring early closure due to conservation issues.
Participating vessels are allowed a maximum of 50 pots. All participants must have a valid 2018 Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission interim use permit card for Prince William Sound Tanner crab and advise ADF&G of an established market for the harvest.
Prince William Sound is a superexclusive registration area for Tanner crab, so operators of a Tanner crab vessel validly registered for a superexclusive registration area may not operate any other Tanner crab vessel registered for any other superexclusive registration area in the same registration year.
Unless otherwise specified in the permit, all provisions of Tanner crab regulations must be adhered to, including size limits and pot marking requirements. Only male Tanner crab five inches or greater in width of shell may be taken or possessed.