King Crab Fishing in Alaska and the Thesis

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King Crab Fishing in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands

Though surrounded by controversy, the crab industry in Alaska is one of the most paying jobs but also most dangerous one. The king crabs are on high demand because of their succulent meat. The limited population of the king crabs means that the season for catching the crabs is short and is under high regulation. Crab industry is increasingly becoming popular due to the growing demand worldwide for the crabs. It requires a lot of physical stamina, commitment and skills. Though Alaska has a long history of crab fishing, commercial interest in crab fishing emerged in 1950s.The main species of crab are the king crab, tanner, snow and Dungeness. This paper looks at the classification of crabs; focus will however be on the king crab. The paper will also look at the process of king crab fishing in Alaska and the equipment used in fishing. The paper will also look at the regulations that are in place with regards to king crab fishing in Alaska.


This paper will hence bring an insight on the financial and physical costs to fishing of king crabs in Alaska and how these factors may affect the pricing and cost of these crabs as food.


Crabs are small shelled sea creatures that have eight legs and two claws.

The king crab

The crabs are found in the oceans and in many fresh water sources like lakes, springs and even rivers. Because of their availability they are cooked and eaten in many different cultures and communities worldwide. In some species harvesting of the crab meat is manually done. The crabs can be prepared and eaten in different ways all over the world. While some are eaten whole including the shell some have the shell removed since the shell is not soft. In East Asian cultures the roe of a female crab is edible. For the British dish the crab meat that is extracted is placed on a shell and eaten from there.

The crabs can be classified in different ways this include the king crab; which are known for their large size found in the southern hemisphere but for the Alaskan king crab that is found in near freezing water. It is believed to be from the ancestor of the hermit crab. This can be branched into three the red, the blue and the golden king crab. These differences in the sub-classes are due to the color and size distinctions of the different king crabs. The meat from these king crabs is practically the same. The king crabs is the most hunted for food because of its large size and taste of meat. The red king crab is however the most popular catch since it is the largest specie and readily available (A-Z Animals, 2012). Another division is the opilio crab that belongs to the spider crab family. There are four distinct species of opilio crab. This crab lives primarily around Alaska, its red in colors and fished commercially as item for food.

Fishing the king crab

Fishing season and location

The most lucrative king crab fishing in Alaska occurs in the fall and winter. These are often short seasons and they last less than four weeks. Within the Bering Sea the most active months are October and January. In each season there are approximately two hundred and fifty crabs fishing boats in the Dutch Harbor out in search of the Alaskan king crab.

The most popular waters for the Alaskan king crabs are Bristol Bay, Kodiak Island, Dutch Harbour, the Bering Sea and Norton Sound. Red and blue king crabs are found around depths of a hundred fathoms while the golden king crab is found in depths ranging from a hundred to four hundred fathoms (Discovery Communications, 2012).


The fishing is done with commercial fishing boats that are 12-17m in length equipped with hydraulic systems that lift the catch. They are also able to withstand the freezing weather as they can stay out for days or weeks. A box shaped trap is used that consists of a steel frame with a nylon mesh cover. This is called the pot and its average weight is 270-360kgs. A ship can carry up to 300 pots and they are sunk to the sea floor where the king crab is found (, 2005).

Fishing process

The pots are baited with turkey or chicken parts then dropped 400 feet below the surface of the water. The pots are then lowered to the ocean floor and their location marked with a buoy. They are then required to soak from between five and twenty four hours before they are hauled back on the deck.

Once they have been caught the crabs are sorted and the unsatisfactory catches are thrown back into the water.
The crabs that ar5e kept stay alive in the holding tank. They still require attention because if they are too cold they can freeze and eventually burst. They can also attack each other and a dead crab can release poison that can cause the entire catch to die.

Rules and regulations

Since the king crab fishing represents a large portion of the local economy regulations for the fisheries are put in place so that individuals and commercial fishing is done in a responsible manner so that the crab population can be sustained. In Alaska residents are allowed to fish the king crab though they are regulated by the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game. This is to ensure that the aquatic resources are maintained, protected and improved, and so that the state can manage the use of this resources with the interest of the people at hand. The regulations include;

In the Alaska's crab fishery regulation, it is a requirement that only certain traps can be used to catch the crabs. Crabs that have been captured by any unacceptable trapping equipment should be returned into the water. Escape mechanism should be operational for the pots used (Lister, 2010).

It is also against the regulations to disfigure or do anything that will bring alterations to the crab's weight. It's also against the regulations to trap crabs that are below the size limits that have been established by Alaskan waters. The traps should also be of size to ensure no capturing of under sized crabs. Though incase captured the undersized ones should be returned to the water with no harm on them.

A commercial license should be obtained by crab fisheries and ship crew members so that they can be able to conduct fishing activities (Lister, 2010). The fee paid is on an annual basis and amounts to sixty dollars for residents and up to two hundred dollars for non-residents. With the rules and regulations in place there are various requirements for both commercial and individual fishermen this include;

Individual requirements

Anyone who wants to fish has to have the appropriate license and follow the rules and regulations regarding the crab sex, size and color According to regulations only male crabs can be taken for personal use. Red and blue male king crabs should be 7 inches so that smaller male and female crabs can be retained they should be replaced in water immediately. The fishing methods allowed include pots, rings, dip nets, diving gears, hooked lines and hand only. If regulations are followed then commercial fishermen can retain part of the king crab catch for their personal use (Titus, 2012)

Commercial requirements

Commercial king crab fishing is under heavy regulation from the state of Alaska. The vessels used for commercial fishing must be registered with the state and they must only harvest king crab within the specific areas that have been registered. All the vessels should also be inspected and pass the inspection at the required registration area before the registration process is completed. The commercial king crab fisheries must use only the king crab pots during harvesting and all the pots and other related equipment should meet standards listed in the Alaska Administrative code. All the nine king crab registration areas have their own requirements for commercial fisheries in place.

Commercial fisheries are required not to use more than one hundred and fifty large pots and three hundred small pots in one vessel when catching the Alaskan king crab (Titus, 2012). The fishing operations involving the king crab is restricted to waters that are two hundred fathoms in depth.


The commercial king crab fishing in Alaska is among the deadliest jobs that people do. According to the Alaskan king crab website the fatality rate of the job is ninety times above average in the U.S. The specific dangers include working in the open water in weather conditions that are adverse (Hamilton, 2010).The equipments that are used are constantly in motion a misplaced step can cause the fisherman to be sent overboard into the freezing cold weather. The small boats are used due to their flexibility but they have a great chance of capsizing incase of bad….....

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