Tracking the Alaskan Red King Crab - Post 2

June 12, 2019

Out to Sea. On the movements of a tasty crab.

Royal American leaving Dutch Harbor, AK on its way to conduct crab research in the Bering Sea.

Royal American leaving Dutch Harbor, AK on its way to conduct crab research in the Bering Sea.

A crab pot being loaded onto our research boat.

A crab pot being loaded onto our research boat.

I flew to Dutch Harbor, AK with three other crab biologists. We met the captain and crew of the fishing vessel Royal American chartered to conduct our crab research. To be efficient in our use of time and resources, we are actually conducting two research projects. We are tagging red king crab and conducting a trawl survey for Tanner crab. We needed quite a bit of gear on board – all the nets for the trawl survey, plus crab pots for catching the red king crab to complete both of these projects. The crew did an excellent job of fitting everything on the deck. It's not typical to have find room for both trawl gear and pots on a boat at the same time.

When we prepare to go to sea we need lots and lots of lists, that get checked once, twice, and many more times. When you are in the middle of the ocean, you can’t exactly run back to the store -- and no, there isn’t an Amazon boat to bring it to you!  The big things are easy to remember, but it’s often trivial things like pencils or zip ties that get forgotten. You don’t want to be at sea for three weeks with only one pencil and lots of data to record!  After many last-minute trips to the store, we left Dutch Harbor a few days ago, and so far so good, we don’t seem to be missing anything!

A juvenile Tanner crab surrounded by bat stars and hermit crabs.

A juvenile Tanner crab surrounded by bat stars and hermit crabs.

We’ve started with the trawl survey, where we’ve measured many Tanner crabs of all different sizes. There are so many fascinating creatures that live on the seafloor. I feel so lucky to see them all – beautiful sea stars of all shapes and colors, tons of hermit crabs carrying around their houses, flatfishes with bright scales - the list goes on and on.  We’ll start setting the crab pots in a few days. NOAA Fisheries scientists are also conducting the annual survey of crab and groundfish in the southeastern Bering Sea. They are letting us know where they find mature male king crab in Bristol Bay. We'll use this information to set crab pots in those spots.

Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation biologists Madison Shipley and Charlie Heller prepare sensors for the Tanner crab trawl survey.

Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation biologists Madison Shipley and Charlie Heller prepare sensors for the Tanner crab trawl survey.

John Do Mar releases the catch from the trawl net.

John Do Mar releases the catch from the trawl net.

Biologists Julia Dissen (Alaska Department of Fish and Game) and Charlie Heller (Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation) sort and measure the Tanner crab catch.

Biologists Julia Dissen (Alaska Department of Fish and Game) and Charlie Heller (Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation) sort and measure the Tanner crab catch.

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