The Puget Sound Dungeness crab fishery uses a “3-S” design to maintain a conservation-based resource management strategy. The fishery design uses a combination of measures to target specific sex (males), size (animals greater than 6.25 inches), and season (only animals in hard-shell condition) to support the greatest crab resources are Puget Sound. These waters are divided into seven crustacean management regions with the Tulalip Tribes participating in commercial and subsistence crab fisheries in Regions 1, 2E, 2W, 3, and 4. The commercial and non-commercial fisheries near Tulalip normally starts after the spring molt (molt ends normally in April) where crab are coming out of a dormant winter season, slightly larger from the previous year, and with a new shell. Season targets are established for treaty commercial fisheries and daily trip limits are established for non-commercial subsistence and ceremonial opportunities. The fishery, and corresponding crab trap gear, is designed to avoid capture of young males and females. Traps are designed with escape ports that allow smaller animals and most females to exit the trap while being fished as the Legal sized males are retained.
The Tulalip Shellfish Program conducts test fisheries to assess the specific timing of the spring molt as well as year to year abundance. These studies are conducted to assist in quota setting as well as to assist in the negotiations with co-managers the appropriate openings and closings for all fisheries and to maintain data collection and monitoring of a very economically important resource. In general, harvest during periods of soft-shell conditions can increase the mortality through handling stress and physical damage of soft shell crab and lead to decreasing future abundance, reduction in seasonal landings and lower commercial ex-vessel value to the wholesale community. The Tulalip Shellfish Program is one of the principle Dungeness crab shellfishery investigating managers in Puget Sound with a history of assessing larval distribution, modifications to and assessments of different gear types, impacts of fisheries and assessments of disproportionate harvest impacts as well as molt-timing and shell-condition studies.