I recently testified at the Lynn Canal Fish and Game Advisory Board meeting regarding the current Dungeness crab management plan for Southeast Alaska waters. The best way to understand what is at risk here is to quote Alaska Department of Fish and Game management reports after the collapse of the Dungeness crab fishery in Prince William Sound.
Orca Inlet:“Harvest ranged from over 1 million pounds in the early 1960’s to 35,000 pounds in 1976.” The fishery has been closed since 1980. Fish and Game conducted surveys in Orca Inlet beginning in 1974. “Legal male catch per pot has declined from 16 in 1986 to 0.25 in 1998. The 2002 survey caught no Dungeness crab in 30 pot lifts. The last survey was conducted in 2008 and produced no Dungeness crab in 15 pot lifts.”
Copper River: “The harvest peaked at 1.5 million pounds in 1980 declining to 70,000 pounds in 1991.” The Copper River District fishery has been closed since 1992.
This story of destruction can be told for Cook Inlet (still closed), Yakutat (still closed, sport harvest also) and I believe it foretells the immediate future for Haines and Southeast. I am advocating that, as a community we request that the Board of Fish immediately close the waters of Southeast Alaska to commercial harvest of Dungeness crab. For those of you concerned about the financial impact of a closure on our local crabbers, consider that there won’t be anything to catch for at least the next 30 years unless we act now.