The group was formed last year by harvesters and vessel owners to partner with researchers and learn more about the golden king crab stocks at Alaska’s most far-flung fishery.
Hilsinger takes over the Science Advisor position from Denby Lloyd who helped guide the Foundation’s creation and start up.
For nearly 40 years John Hilsinger worked in research and management positions with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in the Central, Westward and Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim regions. He retired as Director of the Commercial Fisheries Division in 2010.
Hilsinger said it is “exciting” to have the opportunity to work with the Foundation because so little is known about the deep water crabs that live amid underwater mountain ranges along the Aleutian Chain. He calls golden kings “Alaska’s most unique crab fishery” because the fishing grounds extend for over 800 miles.
Surveys to evaluate the Aleutian crab resource have been very limited due to its distance. A commercial fishery has been sustained for more than 30 years, now with a conservative fixed harvest cap of six million pounds per year. Crabbers have long believed the catch could be higher.
Last year, by partnering with state and federal scientists during the nine month fishery, they gathered enough data on the size, make up and distribution of the stocks to indicate they are likely correct.
In fact, golden king crab from the Aleutian Islands might soon compete with Bristol Bay for Alaska’s largest king crab fishery.
“This is a great opportunity to learn more about these crab and build a sustainable management regime,” Hilsinger said.
Foundation president Rip Carlton said Hilsinger will help maintain the momentum the industry/research partnerships have gained over two years.
Carlton added: “John's background and expertise will greatly benefit our goals of better understanding the golden king crab resource. We are 100% involved in the sustainability of our fishery.”
Along with the ongoing crab stock assessment projects, the Foundation also is participating in studies on golden king crab growth, handling mortality and ocean acidification impacts.
Interestingly, early findings show the goldens are far tougher and more resilient than their crab counterparts.