Sun’aq Tribe enlisting volunteers for crayfish collection at Buskin Lake


The Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak is hosting a community crayfishing day at Buskin Lake on Friday, July 1, and residents will have an opportunity to help collect the invasive species – and data for researchers. 

The terms crayfish, crawfish, crawdad or the colloquial mudbug all refer generally to the same type of small, freshwater crustacean. In some parts of the world they thrive in brooks and streams, and in other places they live in swamps. And since 2002, an invasive population of signal crayfish has also inhabited Kodiak’s Buskin Lake. 

Matthew Van Daele is the natural resources director for the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak. 

“And it wasn’t until about 2012 that a large adult was caught, and then followed in 2015 by a female with eggs,” said Van Daele. “And since that time every indication is that the crayfish population is increasing and also expanding into new areas of the watershed.” 

Crayfish, like the one seen here, were first discovered in Kodiak’s Buskin Lake in 2002. (Photo: KMXT)

Van Daele said the current number of Buskin crayfish is unknown – Kodiak residents used to be able to harvest them. But regulations from Alaska’s Department Fish and Game passed last year prohibit the capture and transport of invasive species – including Kodiak’s crayfish. 

At Friday’s community crayfishing day, Van Daele says members of the public can sign up as Sun’aq Tribe volunteers to help collect the crayfish for research purposes – and as part of the tribe’s ongoing eradication effort.

“If you think about crab populations for instance, when the managers do their crab surveys and their crab assessments they try to figure out how many juveniles, how many young adults, how many mature adults are in the population,” said Van Daele. “If we can do the same thing with crayfish we’d have a much better understanding about what the population is doing and do we need to refine or revise eradication efforts – or are things working.”

Volunteers can meet at the upper weir site at Buskin Lake between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Friday to register. 

“If you have a wetsuit with snorkel and mask that’s most highly recommended,” said Van Daele. “But with everything getting so warm they’re getting into very shallow water, even Xtratufs would work.”

The Fish and Game rules mean that crayfish collected by volunteers can’t be taken home. But Van Daele said the Sun’aq Tribe is planning to host a community crawdad boil; that was originally scheduled for this weekend, but was postponed for weather. The tentative date is now Saturday, Aug. 6.

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