Photo: Doug Smith, former NMFS observer
"Red king crab bycatch from a single yellowfin sole haul delivered by the domestic trawler Vega to the Soviet processor Chasovoy in late August 1981. This catch and several more like it were taken from a water depth of 55-75 meters off Black Hill, Bristol Bay.
"Of the several thousand dead crab shown here, 80-90% were mature females with egg clutches. Damage to the Bristol Bay brood stock, beginning with the advent of commerical trawling in 1980, quickly eroded the reproductive capacity of the population.
"As was typical of these unexpectedly large catches, none of the red king crab shown here was counted or measured by observers before being dumped. The fact that such catches are omitted from extrapolations to total fleet bycatch mean that observer estimated bycatch numbers are woeful underestimates for the period surrounding the collapse of the Bristol Bay red king crab population.
"After this photo was snapped, such impolitic catches began being dumped at sea, away from the eyes of observers, who were confined to the processors. This photo, along with the knowledge that JV trawling killed off much of the Bristol Bay brood stock, is nearly 30 years old. Anyone who sincerely believes that trawling and crab populations can coexist has a poor grasp of reality. "