The causes of the appearance of large blue king crabs (Paralithodes platypus) in Peter the Great Bay for the last decade are discussed. This species is an important commercial resource in the waters of Russian Far Eastern seas, and its general concentrations are related mainly to the sublittoral and upper bathyal zones of the northwestern Bering Sea and the northern Sea of Okhotsk. Until recently, this species has been observed in areas along the continental coast of the northwestern Sea of Japan up to the Peter the Great Bay, where it incidentally showed up in red king crab (P. camtschaticus) and snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) catches but was also commercially used. This area was considered as the southern periphery of the species range. Since the late 1990s, both male and female blue king crabs have been recorded in trawl and trap catches during research works conducted within the Peter the Great Bay. Since 2002, any commercial catches of shelf crab species are prohibited in the waters south of 47°20′ N because of a dramatic decline in their populations. Since then all the illegally caught crabs, including blue king crabs that are seized live from poachers, are released back into the water in certain places of the bay. In total, at least 29 503 blue king crabs, including egg-bearing females, were released within the period from 2002 to November 2009. At present, the overall blue king crab abundance in Peter the Great Bay, estimated based on the trap catches over an area of 7048 km2, is 50500, the abundance of commercial-size males (with a carapace width over 130 mm) is 7500, and the male to female ratio is 1.00: 1.35. The increase in the blue king crab population observed in the bay is the result of the immigration of mature and viable individuals from other areas of its range. After this “uncontrolled introduction” blue king crabs adapted to new conditions, and then began breeding and spreading over the entire area of the bay.
Russian Journal of Marine Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 18, 2011
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