MEPS 214:167-176 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/meps214167

Seasonal movements and distribution of Dungeness crabs Cancer magister in a glacial southeastern Alaska estuary

Robert P. Stone*, Charles E. O¹Clair

Auke Bay Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 11305 Glacier Highway, Juneau, Alaska 99801, USA

ABSTRACT: The movements of 10 female and 8 male adult Dungeness crabs, Cancer magister (Dana, 1852), were monitored biweekly to monthly with ultrasonic biotelemetry for periods ranging from 73 to 555 d. Female and male crabs had different seasonal patterns of habitat use, depth distribution, and activity. The general pattern for female crabs was: (1) a relatively inactive period between November and mid-April at depths below 20 m; ovigerous crabs were typically buried during this period in a dense aggregation; (2) abrupt movement into shallow water (<8 m) in late April and residence there until early June; this movement was coincident with the spring phytoplankton bloom and initiation of larval hatching; (3) increased activity beginning in July with movement back to deeper water, presumably to forage. Females that molted prior to oviposition did so in June and July. Male crabs occupied deep water (>40 m) from November to April, then concentrated in shallow water (<25 m), segregated from females, until late July. Males were most active in late summer and moved into deeper water (>30 m) near the mouth of the cove in fall. The range of depths were -0.5 to -61.3 m for females and +0.1 to -89.0 m for males. Female crabs showed fidelity to the head of the cove and typically ranged only 1.5 km from there. Male crabs, however, moved up to 7.2 km from the head of the cove, but did not move close to the nearest established population of Dungeness crabs 9.6 km distant. The discrete population of adult Dungeness crabs in Fritz Cove may be representative of most Dungeness crab populations inhabiting shallow embayments of the coastal fjord system of southeastern Alaska.

KEY WORDS: Dungeness crab · Biotelemetry · Essential habitat · Migration

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