KODIAK, Alaska — An Alaska program is in its final year of an experiment to determine whether hatchery-raised red king crab can increase wild stock.

The Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology Program started its work in 2009 with a goal of enhancing depressed king crab populations throughout Alaska, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported Tuesday.

So far, the program has achieved efficient production of juvenile crab, conducted research on their behavior and completed a number of small out-planting releases.

Dr. Robert Foy, director of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Kodiak laboratory, said the next step is expanding the experiment.

“We’ve only out-stocked up to 15,000 juveniles, which is very tiny. Most of them aren’t going to survive, so it’s just a test,” Foy said. “Our goal this next year is to put upwards of 300,000 out.”

The results of the program are intended to aid legislators in deciding whether to pursue the rehabilitation of wild king crab stocks through hatchery enhancement. Some are hopeful that the hatchery-produced king crab could be used to bring back localized fisheries that have been inactive in most regions for over 30 years. Foy, however, said the discussion on whether king crabs will be commercially fished again must wait.

“It would be a long time before we can determine if that would be possible, so we’re trying to be realistic with our goals here,” he said.

Once the out-stocking beings next year, Foy and his team will track the animals, analyzing their behavior and interactions, and will eventually determine the percentage of survival.


Information from: Kodiak (Alaska) Daily Mirror, http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com