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Blue king crab. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Alaska king crab rehab programme to boost its numbers

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013, 06:30 (GMT + 9)

A joint effort of fishermen´s groups as well as academic and government organizations resulted in the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology (AKCRRAB) Programme, which will bear fruit in the upcoming weeks with the release of the first Alaskan artificially bred red king crabs into the wild.

Alaska Sea Grant, in partnership with regional fishermen, coastal communities, NOAA Fisheries, the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery and Chugach Regional Resources Commission and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences have teamed up to carry on a research programme with a view to encourage the artificial culturing of blue and red king crabs and enhance the population of both species, which are key to the economic development and sustainability of the region in the long term.

The AKCRRAB was born in 2006 during a scientific symposium in Kodiak to figure out how to breed king crab in hatchery. Since it was conceived, this and other problems were solved. Now it has to figure out how to release the little crabs into the ocean.

The programme encourages large-scale artificial hatching of both species in a protected environment to be eventually released into the wild boosting king crab populations all over Alaska. The first hatchery-raised batch ever to have been bred in Alaska, around 13,000 tiny red king crabs, will be released into the ocean in three weeks’ time, reports the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

This is not as easy a task as it might seem since crabs, particularly young ones, are cannibalistic. Crabs have special requirements in regard to food and water conditions. Red king crab need a number of years to mature into an adult harvestable size.

If the AKCRRAB is successful, it could have a significant impact on the economy of the state, which was the king crab capital of the world in the 1960s and 70s.

The reasons why crab disappeared from the Alaskan shores are debatable but many attribute this to overfishing, climate change, increased predation or migration of the species.

By Gabriela Raffaele


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