Most examples of positive population responses to marine protected areas (MPAs) have been documented for tropical reef species with very small home ranges; the utility of MPAs for commercially harvested temperate species that have large movement patterns remains poorly tested. We measured the distribution and abundance of red king Paralithodes camtschaticus and Tanner Chionoecetes bairdi crabs inside and outside of MPAs in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, USA. By tagging a sub-sample of crabs with sonic tags, we estimated the movement of adult crabs from one of the MPAs (Muir Inlet) into the central portion of Glacier Bay where fishing still occurs. Tanner crabs and red king crabs moved similar average distances per day, although Tanner crabs had a higher transfer out of the Muir Inlet MPA into the central bay. Tanner crab movements were characterized by large variation among individual crabs, both in distance and direction traveled, while red king crabs migrated seasonally between 2 specific areas. Although Tanner crabs exhibited relatively large movements, distribution and abundance data suggest that they may be restricted at large spatial scales by habitat barriers. MPAs that are effective at protecting king and especially Tanner crab brood stock from fishing mortality will likely need to be larger than is typical of MPAs worldwide. However, by incorporating information on the seasonal movements of red king crabs and the location of habitat barriers for Tanner crabs, MPAs could likely be designed that would effectively protect adults from fishing mortality. ?? Inter-Research 2008.
Additional publication details
Spatial patterns and movements of red king and Tanner crabs: Implications for the design of marine protected areas