What does it take to be a sustainable fishery?
Scientists reveal the secrets of Oregon Dungeness
Photo courtesy of Noelle Yochum and the Oregon C.R.A.B Project
FROM THE SHADOWS of her dimly lit Newport, Oregon lab, biologist Noelle Yochum reaches into the dark waters of her experimental tank. Using a long-handled net she pulls out a squirming female crab, its orange and purple pinchers flailing and snapping at its human abductor. The crustacean is called Cancer magister, commonly known as the Dungeness crab, and the gloomy artificial environment is designed to mimic the creature’s sunless home in the ocean’s depths. Here in Oregon the scurrying bottom dweller is big business.
Over the past decade, fishers have caught roughly 17 million pounds of crab each year from Oregon’s coastal waters. These hauls have made the Dungeness crab the state’s most valuable single species fishery, putting more than $191 million in fishers’ pockets over the last five years alone. Yet just how and why the fishery has been so successful is a bit of a scientific mystery, one that Oregon crabbers need solved if they want to keep the Dungeness and dollars rolling in. That’s where Yochum, an Oregon State University graduate student, enters the picture.
Yochum’s work is being bankrolled in large part by the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission (ODCC), which is also funding three other research projects. The industry-funded organization hopes Yochum and others can discover if Oregon crabbers are slowly hurting the fishery by overharvesting and other bad practices, or — if like many suspect — the fishery is in fact managed sustainably. What’s at stake is the fishery’s certification from the prestigious Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
Read the Full Article at Edible Portland.