Extreme to close commercial crabbing
John Norton’s “solution” to the decline of Dungeness crab stocks in Southeast Alaska by closing all Southeast waters to commercial crabbing is sophomoric in the extreme! I normally wouldn’t respond to such hysteria, but after seeing his opinion in print, some people may believe in such a narrow management approach. It is true that many Dungeness crab populations appear to be in decline in Southeast. To at least some extent, those declines are a result of predictable cyclic ups and downs in the fishery and have always occurred over time. Crabbers who often fish areas where crab are currently at the low-end of the abundance threshold will naturally migrate to other areas where, at least for a while, stocks appear to be more abundant. This, of course, places enormous stress on smaller populations which rarely see such massive harvest effort. But, with time, these stocks will all rebuild so long as female crab and undersized male crab aren’t harmed.
Norton’s letter gives no mention of the impact on Prince William Sound fisheries following the Exxon Valdez disaster, nor does he mention the explosive growth of sea otter populations in that area. When a fishery has been closed for as many years as it has been in the Prince William Sound and the crab surveys continue to crash, there are only two major causes left to consider, environment and predation. With the unchecked growth of sea otter populations in Southeast Alaska, we may indeed, share the same fate.
Terrance Pardee, fisherman