SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Dungeness Crab
By Max Worhatch IV


February 09, 2011
Wednesday PM

While I do appreciate Lloyd Gossman's concern about the Dungeness stocks in southeast Alaska, I am appalled by his lack of knowledge on the subject. The commercial Dungeness crab fishery in southeast is the most conservatively managed Dungeness fishery in the world. The coastal dungeness crab fishery in California, Oregon, and Washington starts every year on December first and runs through the thiry first of August. This nine month season is managed by size,sex and season. This means that fishermen only take male crab at the minimum size of 6.25 inches carapace width, during the months that are open. In southeast, we take crab with a minimum carapace width of 6.5 inches, for 60 days in the summer and 60 days in the fall, except for district two, which has a season from October first until Febuary twenty eighth.

In western Alaska, the Dungeness season runs from May 15th to December 31st. They have the same size limit as southeast.

It is important to note, the coast fisheries in the lower forty-eight have just recieved a sustainable label from the Marine Stewerdship Council. This council has deemed the fishery as well managed to sustain the resource. It is interesting to note, that in over 100 years there has never been a failure with this management regime. Year after year, coastal fishermen take to the water and harvest crab to feed a hungry populace. Year after year, the resource is availible. Sometimes there are lots, sometimes not so much, but they are there year after year.

Despite the dire warnings from certain biologists at ADF&G, the fishery has thrived. Like all crab stocks, Dungeness varies year to year. Each year this economically important fishery pumps 5 to 10 million dollars ex-vessel dollars into the economy of southeast. The dollar multiplier, when you factor in crew shares, bait, fuel, gear, and all the other things fishermen spend money on to gear up for this fishery, is huge. With somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 permits, and three large scale processors, this fishery provides southeast with gainful employment, as well as raw fish tax revenues, some of which goes to Ketchikan.

Again, while I appreciate Mr. Gossman's concern, I believe it is driven by his desire to control a public resource for his own use, that could be used to benefit more people, than by biological fact.

Mr. Gossman should also realize that the reason the commercial sector requested that Disticts 1 and 2 be opened in the summer, was the condensing of our fleet due to Sea Otter predation. Over the last 15 years the rapidly growing sea otter population in southeast has slowly but surely rendered once productive Dungeness grounds (and sea cucumber, and geoduck grounds) barren. If this problem is not addressed in some manner, commercial fisheries as well as sport and personal use for Dungeness will become a thing of the past.


Max Worhatch IV
Petersburg, AK

About: "Commercial Dungeness crab fisherman for 20 years."

Received February 05, 2011 - Published February 09, 2011


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Ketchikan, Alaska