Tracking Alaska Red King Crab with USVs

Tracking seasonal movements of Alaska red king crab using a Saildrone USV equipped with an acoustic receiver.


Number of crabs located

3,500 nm

Distance traveled

Access Data Set


Alaska red king crab is one of the most valuable of the commercially harvested crabs, in demand for its succulent and flavorful snow-white meat. To make better decisions regarding the protection of this important fishery, researchers from NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center and Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation teamed up to track the movements of red king crab using saildrones. In June 2019, researchers aboard a chartered fishing vessel tagged 148 mature male Alaska red king crabs with a shell length greater than 120 mm (4.7 inches); in September, two Saildrone USVs equipped with keel-mounted VEMCO acoustic receivers were launched from Dutch Harbor, AK, to find out where the crab had gone.


The two saildrones covered a total of 3,500 nautical miles and located a total of 50 crabs—34% of the tagged group.

“Working with the fisheries has provided an invaluable source of information, but the problem is that we only get data from where fishing is taking place. That was one of the real advantages of using a saildrone; we could conduct a comprehensive search effort of any area. The fishermen are really good at finding hot spots, but even in areas where crab are not found, that’s still important data to have.”

Leah Zacher

NOAA Fisheries scientist

Scientific Papers

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