King crab rebuilding plan approved

Federal fisheries officials have approved a plan to rebuild stocks of St Matthew Island blue king crab over approximately the next 25 years.

The rebuilding time frame for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s preferred alternative also will provide affected communities with the possibility of directed harvest during the rebuilding phase. The project, approved during a teleconferenced council meeting in June, is expected to be protracted over a quarter century, mostly due to the low recruitment that could occur if current, unfavorable ecosystem conditions continue.

Environmental stressors affecting survival and recruitment are considered to be the dominant factors in the decline of stocks and in stock recovery, rather than directed fishing or bycatch, and the possibility exists that rebuilding may never occur, the council noted.

Every two years during rebuilding, progress on stock recovery is to be reported by the National Marine Fisheries Service to the Commerce Department. Directed harvest (if it occurs), bycatch and ecosystem conditions will be monitored throughout rebuilding.

The council was notified that the stock was overfished in October 2018, which started a two-year process for implementing a rebuilding plan.