Summer & Fall 2023 ~ Newsletter
Five years since its inception, the Pacific Northwest Crab Research Group (PCRG) continues to expand, with 150 active members and the first official group publication on the horizon.
From Puget Sound Restoration Fund’s annual fundraiser to the conclusion of yet another successful larval crab monitoring season, this past summer was packed full of rigorous science, public outreach and engagement, and impressive achievements within the PCRG community.
Read on for an overview of the latest developments within PCRG working groups, cutting-edge research, noteworthy news highlights, and upcoming events!
PACIFIC NORTHWEST CRAB RESEARCH GROUP
Larval Crab Monitoring
2023 Season Highlights:
Fifth year of PCRG light trap monitoring
21 participating sites in WA (Fig. 1) and 30 sites in BC (coordinated through Hakai Institute’s Sentinels of Change initiative)
7 sites piloted the use of ArcGIS Survey123 for data submission
Largest recorded catch in 2023: 18,653 Dungeness megalopae were recorded at Semiahmoo (SMS) on July 4 after a single night of fishing
End-of-season Potluck & Debrief
On Thursday, September 14, representatives from nearly every monitoring site gathered in Kingston for PCRG’s End-of-season Potluck. Thanks to the expeditious data submission by ten dedicated partners, we were able to distribute a preliminary post-season report, and discussed patterns, challenges, and observations made throughout the past season. We also brainstormed strategies to streamline the Survey123 data submission process, with the aim of enhancing accessibility and efficiency for all PCRG partners in the future. Over the next several months, the Larval Crab Technical Team will dive into the 2023 data, creating a comprehensive report that summarizes this year’s findings in context with PCRG’s previous four years of monitoring. This report will be shared with the larger group during PCRG’s next annual winter meeting (Feb. 2024).
Proof of Concept Manuscript
We’ve assembled a team of 16 co-authors – many of whom have been integral to PCRG since its founding – to tackle the group’s inaugural publication. This proof-of-concept manuscript will showcase our collaborative network, utilizing the Larval Crab Monitoring network as a compelling case study. Our team of authors includes academics, researchers, biologists, and fisheries co-managers, each contributing their unique voice and perspective to a synthesized narrative. The manuscript will encapsulate the essence of PCRG – an organized research collaborative that bridges that gap between science and management of Dungeness crab fisheries.
PCRG’s ongoing genetics study aims to investigate the connectivity of Dungeness crab populations across the southern Salish Sea. Larval crabs from each management region were sampled by participating partners in the light trap network, and have since been collected and sent for analysis. Adult crabs are sampled by co-managing biologists and industry partners throughout the 2023 crabbing season. Spring collections were successful, and fall sampling is underway at 11 sites across all Puget Sound management regions, as well as one comparative site on the outer coast. Results will be used to evaluate whether existing management regions align with true population structure.
Back to the Beach Bash
For the second time, Puget Sound Restoration Fund (PSRF) hosted the Back to the Beach Bash, an annual fundraising event to generate funds and garner support for its essential programs. This year’s event was exclusively dedicated to the celebration of Dungeness crab, with all proceeds directed toward supporting PCRG and crab-related research. Held at the beautiful Baywater Shellfish Co. on Saturday, July 22, the event proved to be a huge success. Attendees deepened their understanding of Dungeness crab biology and management, enjoyed a delectable feast, and raised over $20,000 to support our group’s vital work.
Swinomish Larval and Juvenile Dungeness Crab Monitoring Report for 2021
Sarah K. Grossman, Claire E. Cook, and Julie S. Barber (2023) | Link
The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community recently published a technical report detailing the 2021 Dungeness crab monitoring season at three light trap locations and two intertidal sampling sites in San Juan and Whidbey Basins. In 2021, Dungeness crab megalopae arrived later than the previous three years of light trap monitoring, and total annual catches were much higher than previous years at two sites (COR and ANA). Consistent with previous years, megalopae carapace widths “varied spatially and decreased over time”. Juvenile Dungeness crab abundance at intertidal monitoring sites differed significantly across months, but were not significantly different between sites.
Reproductive potential of the blue crab spawning stock in Chesapeake Bay across eras and exploitation rates using nemertean worms as biomarkers
Alexandra K. Schnieder, Mary C. Fabrizio, Romuald N. Lipcius (2023) | Link
This study used the presence of C. carcinophila, a nemertean egg predator, in the gills of mature female blue crabs to classify their spawning history and answer questions about the reproductive potential of populations in Chesapeake Bay. Nemertean worms are also known to predate on Dungeness crab eggs, and in the past they “have been linked to brood failure and commercial fishery depletion or collapse in Dungeness crab [populations]”.
A scientometric review of climate change and research on crabs
Chandra Segaran Thirukanthan et al. (2023) | Link
The authors investigated the relationship between crab and climate change-related studies, focused on identifying trends and hotspots in research over time. They analyzed nearly 3000 documents and over 100,000 cited references from the Web of Science Core Collection (WOSCC) database from 1977-2022, and utilized cluster analysis to identify recurrent themes in the textual data. The 10th largest cluster identified by the authors was centered on Dungeness crab. Their findings suggest that Dungeness crab research is “ongoing and highly relevant in the field of marine ecology, with implications for conservation and management efforts.”
CRAB & CLIMATE
Winter recreational crab fishing season opens Oct. 1 in many Puget Sound marine areas
September 28, 2023 | Don Velasquez, Mark Yuasa | WDFW | Link
Multiple Puget Sound marine areas will reopen for recreational crabbing on October 1 (including areas 4, 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 8-2, 9, and 12). Crabbing will be allowed seven days a week in each of these areas through December 31. Remember to submit summer catch reports to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) by October 1 for all Dungeness crab harvested in Puget Sound from July through Labor Day weekend!
Ocean heat wave comes to Pacific Northwest shores
August 2, 2023 | John Ryan | KUOW | Link
While strong upwelling kept a large warm-water blob away from West Coast shores this spring, it eventually reached the Washington coast in July. Sea surface temperatures inside the blob are 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit above average, and the effects could potentially be amplified by the arrival of El Niño conditions in the Northern Hemisphere throughout the fall and winter.
WDFW launches online hub for coordinated management of invasive European green crab
June 14, 2023 | Chase Gunnell | WDFW | Link
WDFW launched a new online European Green Crab Hub (EGC Hub) to support the coordination of emergency measures and provide public information on invasive species, coinciding with their continued ramp up of trapping efforts to control EGC populations in local waters.
2022 Salish Sea Toxics Monitoring Synthesis
2023 | PSEMP Toxics Work Group | PSEMP | Link
The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP) has released its biannual 2022 Toxics Monitoring Synthesis, which offers a comprehensive look at impacts from toxic contaminants in the Salish Sea.
West Coast News
How Ocean Warming Is Killing a Prime Alaska Crab Fishery
July 27, 2023 | Andrew S. Lewis | Hakai Magazine | Link
Last year, for the first time ever, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game canceled the Bering Sea snow crab season. Bob Foy, science and research director at the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center, later estimated that billions of crabs were lost over the course of just a few months, with no apparent cause “except the heatwave”.
Crab pots ‘absolutely stuffed’ as Bering Sea Dungeness fishery breaks record
June 26, 2023 | Sofia Stuart-Rasi | Alaska Public Media | Link
While snow crab populations collapsed in the Bering Sea, Dungeness crab fisheries have been breaking records, even in regions where abundance was historically very low. Some speculate that warming conditions might create a more favorable environment for Dungeness in the Bering Sea, though more data is needed before any conclusions are drawn.
Oregon imposes new limits on Dungeness crab fishers to protect whales
August 4, 2023 | Sam Ribakoff | Courthouse News Service (OR) | Link
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) voted to extend and add rules that limit how crabbers are allowed to fish, introducing measures aimed to reduce the risk of humpbacks, blue whales, and leatherback sea turtles from getting entrapped. This was not without controversy: some crabbers are concerned that the new rules may negatively impact catch for smaller crabbing businesses, while some environmentalists say the rules don’t do enough to protect endangered species.
Op-ed: Pacific Seafood Controls the Dungeness Crab Market, but Small Fishermen Are Fighting Back
July 11, 2023 | Ron Knox | Civil Eats | Link
Crabbers in northern California filed a lawsuit against Pacific Seafood in March, claiming the industry giant is abusing its power by conspiring to fix prices paid to fishermen for their catch, “dramatically reducing the amounts received by crabbers for their labors and preventing consumers from receiving reasonably priced fresh Dungeness crab.”
The Ocean Has a Fever
August 21, 2023 | Adam Voiland | NASA Earth Observatory | Link
As of July 2023, average sea surface temperatures around the globe were breaking historical records for four consecutive months. In August, a NOAA analysis found that 48% of the global oceans were in the midst of a marine heatwave. NASA oceanographer Josh Willis explains that these record-breaking temperatures are largely due to the evolving El Niño in the Pacific.
Lessons from ‘The Blob’ will help us manage fisheries during future marine heatwaves
June 5, 2023 | Harrison Tasoff | UCSB The Current | Link
Tasoff provides an overview of a recent study that documented “The Blob’s” impacts on fisheries along the West Coast. The authors employed a series of 10 case studies and found that many fisheries suffered from stock declines and range shifts.
There’s now a 93 percent chance this year will be Earth’s hottest on record
September 15, 2023 | Scott Dance | The Washington Post | Link
This year is on track to surpass 2016 as the world’s warmest year on record. Dance notes that July was the planet’s single hottest month on record, “with possibly its most extreme sustained warmth in 125,000 years."
To help fight invasive green crabs, restaurants are putting them on the menu
September 6, 2023 | Amanda Beland | WBUR | Link
While soft-shell green crab are a popular delicacy in Italy, restaurants on the East Coast of the US have only recently started adding them to the menu. In Maine, two local fishermen say it’s common to catch upwards of 350 pounds of invasive European green crab (EGC) in a single afternoon during the late spring and fall. However, most green crabs are caught for bait and only sell for cents on the pound, so establishing a market for EGC as a food source is going to “take buy-in all around”.
22nd Annual Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival
October 6-8, 2023 | Port Angeles, WA | Link
27th Biennial CERF Conference: Resilience & Recovery
November 12-16, 2023 | Portland, OR | Link
Pacific Northwest Crab Research Group