Spatial variability in size at maturity of golden king crab (Lithodes aequispinus) and implications for fisheries management
Olson, A.P.; Siddon, C.E.; Eckert, G.L.
Royal Society Open Science 5(3): 171802
ISSN/ISBN: 2054-5703 PMID: 29657785 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.171802
Many crab fisheries around the world are managed by size, sex and season, where males are given at least one opportunity to reproduce before being harvested. Golden king crab (Lithodes aequispinus) supports a commercial fishery in Southeast Alaska and legal size is based on growth and maturity information from other parts of their range. Size-at-maturity estimates varied for crabs among seven management areas in Southeast Alaska, where male maturity estimates increased in size with increases in latitude, while maturity estimates across their North Pacific range decreased in size with increases in latitude. Depth, temperature and harvest history were not related to variation observed in male maturity estimates. Management implications from this research include reducing legal size in some areas to maximize harvest potential and increasing in others to allow male crabs the opportunity to reproduce before being harvested. A more conservative strategy would incorporate the largest maturity estimate, thus increasing the legal size which would have a negative impact to the commercial fishery, but allow male crabs the opportunity to reproduce before being harvested. This study shows the importance of understanding how life-history characteristics change over space and the challenge incorporating spatial variability for improved fisheries management.