Gear Design to Reduce Crab Bycatch


The BSFRF, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, and Natural Resources Consultants, along with several other partners (listed below) are testing gear modifications to see how well they reduce red king crab bycatch in the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands pot cod fishery and pot halibut fisheries. the five gear modifications being tested were developed by working with fishermen, gear manufacturers, and fisheries managers.

Initial experiments to test the effectiveness of red king crab bycatch reduction in cod pots were conducted in November 2019 at the NOAA and Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Seawater Laboratory in Kodiak. In each experiment, lab tanks with flow-through seawater were bisected by a pot panel equipped with an entry tunnel and the gear modification. Crab were placed in the tank on the side representing the outside of the simulated pot; bait was placed on the other side of the tank. Success in bycatch avoidance per modification was measured by the amount of crab that were unable to pass through the entry tunnel. Multiple replications of this experiment were conducted to ensure ample sample size of crab tested per pot modification. The lab studies show promising results, and the gear modifications will be further tested on the fishing grounds alongside the standard cod pots in September 2020 to determine the feasibility of the gear modifications in fishing operations and the potential effects on catch per unit effort (CPUE).

Testing the effectiveness of snow crab bycatch avoidance in halibut pots will be conducted in March 2020. Field testing in the halibut fishery will follow immediately to determine operational feasibility and potential effects on halibut CPUE.

This project is being funded by a grant from the NOAA Bycatch Reduction and Engineering Program.

Research partners: BSFRF, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, Natural Resources Consultants, NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, Dungeness Gear Works Inc., Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Bering Sea Pot Cod Cooperative, Fishing Vessel Owner’s Association, Under 60 Cod Harvesters