The temporary anchorage for an assessment and possible repairs of Shell's refloated oil drilling rig, the Kulluk, is in remote Kiliuda Bay on the southeast side of Kodiak Island -- a prime spot for the upcoming tanner crab fishery.
The tiny but lucrative fishery opens on Jan. 15 for dozens of small fishing boats, and the outer Kiluida Bay is one of the top spots, says the Department of Fish and Game.
The Kulluk should be parked to the west of the crabbing zone, farther into the bay, a fisherman in Old Harbor told the command team managing the incident on Monday.
That area is closed to crabbing because it is productive habitat for juvenile crabs too small to keep, said Trent Hartill, a shellfish biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game in Kodiak. As long as the Kulluk remains stable, intact and upright, it shouldn't cause a problem for the young crabs or the fishery, he said. Last year 64 fishing vessels registered for the tanner crab fishery, he said.
Steven Russell with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the state's lead person on the command team, told the Old Harbor group that the response team was aware of the crab fishery issues and was trying to sort out the particulars.
Kodiak bairdi tanner crabs are related to the more common Bering Sea snow crabs, but are bigger and meatier, said Kelly Harrell, executive director of the Alaska Marine Conversation Council, which runs a program that supports the fishermen and markets the tanner crabs to customers in Anchorage, Kodiak and Homer.
If the Kulluk remains in Kiliuda Bay once the crabbing begins, fishing boats that normally pull into the protected bay for the night will need to get permission from the Coast Guard. There's a no-boat zone around the Kulluk.
Reach Lisa Demer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4390.
By LISA DEMER