Starting this month, WDFW will be tagging crab in the bays near Port Townsend as part of a long-term research project designed to gain a better understanding of the movement of crab on the sea floor.
Anyone who catches a crab bearing the distinctive green tag is asked to call the department toll-free at (866) 859-8439 and report the tag number along with the date, location and depth of capture.
"This information will help us fill in gaps in what is known about the movement and migration of Dungeness crab," said Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish biologist. "We are hopeful that this information will lead to improvements in the management of the Dungeness crab resource."
Childers asks that tags not be removed from any crab returned to the water, such as female and undersized crab which cannot legally be retained. Fishers are free to keep tagged, legal-sized crab, but are requested to report the tag information from those crab as well.
Besides seeking help from crab fishers, WDFW has also joined in a partnership with the Port Townsend Marine Science Center and a private marine consulting company to help monitor tagged crab and record their movements.
Dubbed the Menzies Project, the joint research effort enlists the help of school groups, tourists and other members of the general public in documenting information about crab, shrimp, harbor seals and various types of marine vegetation during half-day and full-day excursions out of Port Townsend.
The project was named for Archibald Menzies, the shipboard naturalist who kept detailed journals about the Puget Sound coastline during Capt. George Vancouver's exploration of the area in 1792.
Naturalists trained at the Marine Science Center, aided by passengers aboard the 43-foot research vessel Mary Beth, collect research information on crab and shrimp captured in pots at established points in Port Townsend Bay, Sequim Bay and outside of Discovery Bay near Protection Island.
"This is a real win-win situation," said Jim Norris, owner of Marine Resources Consultants, which operates the Mary Beth. "Our passengers have been truly excited about making a contribution to science while they explore Washington's marine environment."
Childers, at WDFW, shares the excitement about the project.
"This kind of intensive, hands-on research can be prohibitively expensive for a public agency," he said. "We expect that the data we receive from the Menzies Project to play a major role in our management of the crab and shrimp resource."
Information about research cruises is available at http://www.menziesproject.org/ on the Internet or by calling (800) 566-3932.