March 29, 2016

State seeking public comment on blue crab management

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is accepting public comment on management options for the blue crab fishery. The management measures are required under Amendment 2 to the N.C. Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan to improve the condition of the state’s blue crab stock.

Division staff will discuss the possible management measures and receive public comment at the following upcoming advisory committee meetings:

    •Southern Regional Advisory Committee. April 6, 5:30 p.m. N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office, 5285 U.S. 70 West, Morehead City.
Northern Regional Advisory Committee. April 7, 5:30 p.m. N.C. Department of  Environmental Quality Washington Regional Office, 943 Washington Square Mall, Washington.
    Shellfish/Crustacean Advisory Committee. April 14. 6 p.m. N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Central District Office, 5285 U.S.70 West, Morehead City.

Additionally, comments can be directed by phone to division biologists Jason Rock at 252-948-3874 or Corrin Flora at 252-264-3911, or by email to [email protected] or [email protected].

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is scheduled to consider management action at its May meeting. Possible management options include:

    •Increasing the minimum size limit for male and immature female crabs
    Establishing a seasonal size limit on peeler crabs
    Reducing the tolerance of sub-legal size blue crabs to a minimum of 5 percent and/or implementing gear modifications to reduce sublegal catch
    Eliminating the harvest of v-apron immature hard crab females
    Restricting the harvest of sponge crabs
    Prohibiting all harvest of sponge crabs and/or requiring sponge crab excluders in pots in specific areas
    Closing the crab spawning sanctuaries from Sept. 1 to Feb. 28 and possibly imposing further restriction
    Expanding existing and/or designating new crab spawning sanctuaries
    Closing the fishery by season and/or gear
    Gear modifications in the crab trawl fishery

Management measures will be implemented by proclamation following the commission’s May meeting.

Management action is required under Amendment 2 to the N.C. Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan, adopted by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission in November 2013. Amendment 2 uses an adaptive management framework, based on the condition of the Blue Crab Traffic Light, which requires annual evaluation of three indicators to determine if any change in management is warranted. The indicators are adult abundance, the abundance of juvenile crabs in the stock (recruit abundance), and production, which evaluates the reproductive potential or resilience of the stock.

The annual evaluation has been completed, and management thresholds have been exceeded, requiring management action.

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