Are Southeast Alaska Dungeness Crab Threatened?

We posted today a photograph of one early June day’s catch of Dungeness crab on the Nordic Quest. We caught our limit but this is getting harder and harder to do. Non-residents are now limited to three crabs per day but this is plenty to enjoy. But for how long will it be for either Alaskan residents and non-residents who set pots while cruising or on a fishing trip? As a former Alaskan resident and sixty years of enjoying Southeast Alaska year after year, I am worried.

There are more commercial crabbers in SE Alaska than there were ten years ago and there are possibly fifty percent fewer crabs. Is the problem the commercial guys? Not really. The sea otters are taking a huge toll on the crab population. One wonders, if the number of sea otters is not brought under control soon, whether there will be any crab left in SE Alaska – King crab or Dungeness.  In the last three years I have observed sea otters in more and more inside water bays that used to have great crabbing. The crab have disappeared. I can remember when you only found otters along the outside waters or in Sitka Sound, Salisbury Sound or Cross Sound. I laud the move to allow Alaskan Natives to take sea otters for subsistence and ceremonial purposes. Maybe there should be a commercial take on sea otters?

About Fred Cooper

Alaska resident at the time of statehood; retired professional civil engineer and for 35 years owner of an engineering company; firmer owner and skipper of the Nordic Quest; author, avid fisherman and world traveler. Lives with his wife and their water-loving standard schnauzer in Portland, Oregon.
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