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Where are all the crab?
by M.L. Dahl


June 08, 2004

Dear Sitnews:

As recreational mariners, my husband and I spend a lot of time on local waters. We use our boat regularly, and routinely drop a crab pot and shrimp pot for our dinner when out on the water on weekends.

It is getting harder and harder, however, to actually get enough crab or shrimp to actually feed 2 people for one meal. Over and over again we drop our handy dandy little pot, with the yummy crab bait in the pot, then pull it the next morning only to find it empty, or if we are lucky, one crab.

Our boating friends are telling us the same sad crab, few shrimp......slim pickings for the local folks just out for recreational purposes.

So, where are all the crab? Is it possible that they are being overfished by the commercial fishers? Friends mention trying (unsuccessfully)to anchor out in small bays near Ketchikan that are crammed with commercial fishers during the fall to winter commercial crabbing season. Some of these commercial boats are not locals; they are up from Washington and Oregon to crab. It seems to me that local people ought to be able to crab nearby waters for the small amount that we can take without having to compete with commercial fishers.

After checking with Fish & Game, I am informed that the regulations do not restrict commercial fishing from any location in District #1, which includes our local Ketchikan area. That means that commercial boats can fill any little bay with crab pots during their 5 month season, regardless of how close it is to Ketchikan, and chances are, you are out of luck as a recreational fisher if you try your luck in nearby places too, because once the commercial boats have been there, the crab are mostly gone until next season.

In my opinion, in which I am not alone, commercial crabbers and shrimpers should be restricted from the areas nearest to Ketchikan, for example, 25 miles or less from Ketchikan, if only to give the recreational fishers a chance to crab a little bit also. Commercial boats are more able to go out farther than 25 miles from Ketchikan, into deeper waters for crab, than are the small boats of recreational fishers. Commercial boats have better gear and heavier equipment for pulling the big pots, too, than those of us who pull pots from a dinghy or small boat.

My point is that we can share the resources, but regulations don't offer that option. The regs only restrict the commercial season, from October to around late February annually, with quotas for the totals taken. It looks to me like those quotas are along the lines of "take em all". I also object to out-of-state fishers coming to the Ketchikan area in their boats that are loaded with groceries purchased from Costco in Seattle, who then not only compete with Alaskan commercial fishers but also take the resource and leave little or nothing for recreational fishers. I am trying to understand how it has gotten to this point, and I think the answer is that the regulations allow it, simple as that. If that is true, the regulations need to be changed and I am stepping up to the plate to say so.

Thank you, Sitnews, for allowing me to get this gripe into print. I feel better already, but alas......will it actually do any good? I am hoping so.

M.L. Dahl
Ketchikan, AK - USA



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