After years of writing this column about life in the ocean and environmental issues, and as a conversation and learning tool for anything ocean-related going on around our beautiful Island, I currently find it difficult to stay within the limits of this assignment.

You might say that the outside world is encroaching upon our spot of paradise. However, this is my last column before the big election and here is my promise to you readers: Either I will happily return to my own work of explaining the ocean sciences in our backyard, or I will write an obituary to marine conservation progress over the past legislative period.

Today, I want to expand on the difference between a population, as most of us use the term, and a statistical population, and what that has to do with the outcome of the upcoming election.

According to an Alaska Department of Fish and Game website, only male king crab with a carapace greater than 7 inches wide may be taken in personal-use crab fisheries. 

Fisheries regulations are based on data, which are used in statistics. Statistics can be a useful tool in many applications. If used properly, it can help guide sustainable management decisions, or explain present and past outcomes of dynamic events.

It is also often used in predicting future outcomes, such as presidential elections, or the number of crab that are expected to be legal size for fisheries in a given year.

The gender discrimination in king crab fisheries is based on the fact that female king crabs carry their egg clutches for multiple months, all the while fanning oxygen over the developing embryos until the larvae hatch and disperse in the plankton.

Unlike Pacific salmon or the great Pacific octopus, which only spawn once in their lifetime and then die soon after, king crab females live on to hatch another batch of eggs. The role of the males is to find a female, grasp on to her, wait and protect her until she molts, and then deposit a bag of sperm into her.

While he still watches over her for a little longer until her new and soft shell has hardened, she can store his sperm until she is ready to make a batch of eggs, which may not be until months later. Thus, biology explains why it makes sense to allow fisheries to harvest adult males at a higher rate than females. Did I mention that of every batch of eggs, only one or two larvae will grow up to adulthood? 

Fisheries observers collect samples of king crabs in a given area, measure their sizes to determine how many are of legal size, and record their gender. If only legal-size crabs are considered, we can then derive the proportion of harvestable male to non-harvestable female crabs in the sample.

For this determination, where the question we ask only concerns adult, legal-size crab, the sampling population would not include any undersize crabs. The sampling population is only adult crabs, and the biological population is all the king crab. You still have to define how large an area you want to include in your study to fully define the population — for example, legal-size king crab in the Kodiak Management Area.

As you can imagine, the numbers would be different in every sample collected. Any fisherman knows that it also depends on where and when you are fishing. 

Now, imagine the males (king crabs) were Republican voters and the females were Democrats. The area sampled is a state. If over half of the adult crabs are female, this sample counts as female, and if over half of the crab are male, this sample registers as male.

Imagine further that our fishery managers would close down all the areas with more female than male adult crabs to fishing and open all the areas with more males than females. This basically describes our winner-takes-it-all voting-system: Each state has a defined number of votes based on the population (of people, not voters) and those votes cast in the House of Representatives usually follow the majority of votes in the state (though they do not have to). 

I think we would have a lot of fishermen who would argue that it is better for the crabs if you fished a few males out of each area, so that there are both genders left to build a gender-diverse and healthy population structure. Here is where this comparison lags: In our voting system, it is not desirable for the ones running for election if the system is unpredictable and distributed fairly, nor is it intended that every voter feels like their interests are represented. 

According to a report released this week by the Brookings Institute, we are about to see the highest voter turnout in any U.S. election.

Of the people they interviewed, more than 85% were aware that the outcome of this election will have profound effects on how the future of the country plays out: for those who do not have the luxury of filled coffers and millionaire budgets to shield from economic ups and downs, for those who are not white-faced with a blonde lock, and for many more with many more good reasons a change in leadership is paramount for a better future.

For some it is a matter of survival; if you don’t believe me, look up the statistics for homelessness in almost any major American city of your choice.

In this election during the worldwide pandemic, more voters choose to vote by mail. Already, there is talk about difficulties and ensuring proper counting of those mail-in votes in some of the larger cities.

In some places, social distancing and reduction of the number of election helpers will most likely lead to long waiting lines at the voting booths. The U.S. does not hold elections on a day where working people are off and it is likely a hardship for many to get their votes cast on Nov. 3.

But this hardship will disproportionately affect neighborhoods of economically disadvantaged people, and often those are mostly people of color and female king crabs. 

I applied for a mail-in ballot. According to the Alaska election website (, you can take your ballot to any early voting location if you change your mind about mailing it.

I checked at the Kodiak borough chambers office and confirmed this. Of course, you can also just go to any early voting location and get a ballot there. I do recommend using the elections website and looking at the ballot ahead of time so you are prepared for all the votes you are asked to cast.

While I encourage you to do your research on all the votes, the most important is the presidential election. Even if you can’t get through the whole ballot, your vote on the next president still counts. The ballot can be a little intimidating with its many choices. Don’t be scared off! 

It is counter-intuitive to any democratic-minded citizen, but those in power do not benefit from a fair system where everyone participates in the democratic process.

Fewer voters will work in favor of the reigning president. Last column, I mentioned that the presidential vote is a binary choice, but that is not true on the ballot: There are several teams running for president and vice president of the United States.

Besides President Trump and Vice President Pence, and the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden with Kamala Harris for vice president, there is the Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen, who apparently is running in enough states to theoretically win the electoral college.

On our ballot are four other candidates from smaller parties who are not on the ballots in enough states to have a chance to win the national majority. To be honest, some of their names were a surprise to me when I read the ballot, but I admit I have not been following the races closely.

In our king crab sample, only adult legal-size crabs were considered. The rest of the biological population was ignored.

In our presidential election, only the voter population is considered, while all the non-voters have no voice. They might as well not exist.

Here are some more statistics for you: Voter participation is higher among economically well-off people than among the poor.

Also, the percentage of eligible people who exercise their right to vote increases with age. The youngest voters have the lowest participation numbers, and the oldest people have the highest voter outcome.

One would think that it is most important for young people who rules the country, since they have more at stake and many more years to live with the outcome!

When I grew up in Germany, we had a class in high school where we debated politics. For us, going to vote was a kind of rite of passage, something we eagerly anticipated.

I wish that the young people will come out this time and participate.

I think it is a shame that we have two candidates who have little to offer in terms of leading us into a modern and technologically advanced future. I hear very little that would resonate with a young person starting their life in today’s America.

Then again, what comes first: the chicken or the egg? If more young voters voted, perhaps they would change the composition of the Senate, and eventually have candidates they care to vote for. 

In my work as a research scientist, I work on the topic of ocean acidification. It is the term to describe a gradual lowering of the pH of seawater due to the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Young and developing king crab have been shown to be negatively affected by ocean acidification. It makes it more difficult for the small crab to build shells, and it slows their growth and stunts their development.

There is something in our human world that has a similar effect on our young people: 52% of young Americans of age are living with their parents. I guess they too can’t find enough resources to build their shells, and their environmental conditions are stunting their growth and development.

I worry for our world and what is to come. This is a good week to allow some worry, because perhaps that will get people talking about the election and getting the female king crabs to fill out and cast their ballots.

As always, I do also see hope and genius in this pre-election: Did you see the latest Time magazine cover? They even replaced the magazine’s name with those four letters that millions of people agree are more important at this time: VOTE.

I also love the picture of the young woman in her bandana ready to conquer the ballot! Be safe, wear your mask and go vote. You owe it to our amazing world.

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