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Estimates of Harvest Potential and Distribution of the Deep Sea Red Crab, Chaceon quinquedens, in the North Central Gulf of Mexico

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Harvest potential, relative abundance, and geographic and bathymetric distribution are discussed for the red crab, Chaceon quinquedens, in the northcentral Gulf of Mexico. Harvest potential is expressed as the number of trapable crabs present on fishing grounds defined as depths ranging from 677 m to 1043 m between 87.5o and 88.5oW longitude. Using various estimates of the effective fishing area (EFA) of a trap, the number of trapable red crabs on the fishing grounds ranged from 3.7 x 106 to 10.7 x 106. Estimatesofcrabnumberssuggest there is a potential for commercial harvest in the northcentral Gulf of Mexico, east of the Mississippi River. However, fishery development must take into consideration the preponderance of females on the defined fishing grounds (MF ratio = 1:2.1) and the high incidence of ovigerous females (~20%) during much of the year. Females generally dominated at all depth strata, but the proportion of males to females increased with depth. Reduced numbers of red crabs were collected off the western Louisiana coast and a shift in depth distribution was found. Minimum upper depth limit for red crabs west of the Mississippi River was 860 m as compared to 677 m east of the River. The known range of C. fenneri is extended to 92o12"W longitude.

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