Ocean Acidification Threatens Alaska Red King Crab

Sept 16th, 2013 Undercurrent News

The very ocean that has nourished Alaska’s prized red king crabs may prove to be the species’ undoing.

New research earlier this year shows that Bristol Bay red king crab — the supersized crustacean that has come to symbolize the fortunes of Alaska’s crab fleet — could fall victim to the changing chemistry of the oceans, reports the Yakima Herald Republic.

A team of scientists fears Alaska’s $100 million red king crab fishery could crash in decades to come unless carbon-dioxide emissions reduce or the creatures acclimate to changing conditions.

That grim possibility also raises alarm about the crab fleet’s other major moneymaker, snow crab.

“With red king crab, it’s all doom and gloom,” Robert Foy, who oversaw the crab research for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Kodiak, told the newspaper. “With snow crab, there’s so little known we just can’t say. But we don’t see anything from our experience that’s good for any of these crab. Some is just not as bad as others.”

There’s no evidence that souring seas have yet altered wild populations — the most corrosive seas now occur at times when red king crab aren’t as susceptible.

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