The first experimental release of hatchery-reared red king crab in Alaska has been completed, state researchers announced.
The juvenile crab, from broodstock -- egged females -- collected at Alitak Bay, Kodiak Island, were reared at the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery and transported to the NOAA Kodiak Laboratory.
They were released at Cozy Cove near the village of Old Harbor on Kodiak Island Sept. 25. The site was selected because it is well sheltered with plenty of red king crab habitat.
While the reintroduction might lead some to believe this is the start of restoring the once-plentiful Kodiak king crab fishery, Bob Foy, laboratory director for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center Kodiak laboratory, told Alaska Dispatch in August the project is a long way from claiming that.
"This is just an experiment, not a stocking effort," Foy said from Kodiak on Monday.
To begin the release process, researchers created 12 plots on a transect line along the shoreline at a constant depth of 30 feet. Each of the 5-meter-by-5-meter plots was marked with a square of ground line held in place with rebar stakes.
Juvenile red king crab were counted out for each plot, transported to the bottom in individual containers, and released by divers. In all, nearly 5,000 crab were released.
Surveys just before the release showed the area to be devoid of juvenile red king crab.
The day after the release red king crab juveniles were present in the plots, indicating that the initial release was successful. Researchers will continue to monitor the sites to estimate how well these crab survive in the wild.
This article originally appeared in The Cordova Times. Used with permission.