• Abundance, Recruitment, And Environmental Forcing Of Kodiak Red King Crab

      Bechtol, William R.; Kruse, Gordon H. (2009)
      Commercial harvests of red king crab Paralithodes camtschaticus around Kodiak Island, Alaska increased rapidly in the 1960s to a peak of 42,800 mt in 1965. Stock abundance declined sharply in the late 1960s, moderated in the 1970s, and crashed in the early 1980s. The stock has not recovered despite a commercial fishery closure since 1983. To better understand the rise, collapse, and continued depleted status of the red king crab stock around Kodiak Island, I conducted a retrospective analysis with three primary objectives: (1) reconstruct spawning stock abundance and recruitment during 1960-2004; (2) explore stock-recruit relationships; and (3) examine ecological influences on crab recruitment. A population dynamics model was used to estimate abundance, recruitment, and fishing and natural mortalities. Three male and four female "stages" were estimated using catch composition data from the fishery (1960-1982) and pot (1972-1986) and trawl (1986-2004) surveys. Male abundance was estimated for 1960-2004, but limited data constrained female estimates to 1972-2004. Strong crab recruitment facilitated increased fishery capitalization during the 1960s, but the high harvest rates were not sustainable, likely due to reproductive failure associated with sex ratios skewed toward females. To examine spawner-recruitment (S-R) relationships for the Kodiak stock, I considered lags of 5-8 years between reproduction and recruitment and, due to limited female data, two currencies of male abundance as a proxy for spawners: (1) all males ?125 mm carapace length (CL); and (2) legal males (?145 mm CL). Model selection involved AICc, the Akaike Information Criterion corrected for small sample size. An autocorrelated Ricker model using all males and a 5-year lag, with the time series separated into three productivity periods corresponding to different ecological regimes, minimized AIC c values. Depensation at low stock sizes was not detected. Potential effects of selected biotic and abiotic factors on early life survival by Kodiak red king crab were examined by extending the S-R relationship. Results suggested a strong negative influence of Pacific cod Gadus macrocephalus on crab recruitment. Thus, increased cod abundance and a nearshore shift in cod distribution likely impeded crab stock rebuilding.