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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 37 Blue Crabs SSR 2012

Marine Fisheries

Blue Crab

Blue Crab - 2012

Stock Status – Concern – Concern for the blue crab stock is due to reduced landings of hard blue crabs during 2000-2002 and 2005-2007, following record-high landings observed during 1996-1999. The 2011 fishery yielded the fifth lowest landings during the 10-year period of 2002-2011. Harvest from the Pamlico/Core sounds and tributaries increased, but continue to remain significantly below historical levels. Results of the 2011 Traffic Light Stock Assessment suggest the North Carolina blue crab stock is not overfished. Overfishing cannot be determined at this time because data are insufficient for estimating reliable fishing mortality rates.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2002-2011 – 31,017,865 lbs./$25,632,775 (Includes hard, soft, and peeler crab landings and value)

2011 Commercial Landings and Value – 30,035,232 lbs./$21,282,079

Average Recreational Landings – Not available

Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) – A state FMP was adopted by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission in December 1998. Amendment 1 to the FMP was completed in December 2004. Amendment 2 of the Blue Crab FMP was developed in 2011 and is scheduled for final approval some time in 2012. Under Amendment 2, an annual evaluation of stock condition will be used to determine if any change in management measures is warranted (adaptive management).

Research and Data Needs – Expand time and area coverage of fishery-independent surveys, recreational landings estimates, fishery effort and socioeconomic surveys, interactions with protected and species of concern, and the impact of habitat/environmental factors on behavior and abundance. Additional research and data needs are listed in the 2012 FMP.

Current Regulations – 5 inches from tip of spike to tip of spike, for male and immature female hard crabs. For crabs less than the minimum size, a tolerance of not more than 10% by number in any container is allowed. Mature females, soft and peeler crabs, and male crabs (March 1- October 31) to be used as peeler bait are exempt from the minimum size limit.

Seasonal Maximum Size Limit - when the spawning stock is determined by fishery independent surveys to be abnormally low, the director may prohibit the harvest of mature female blue crabs greater than 6¾ inches (5% tolerance) and female peeler crabs greater than 5¼ inches from September 1 through April 30. This maximum size limit was enacted in January 2006 and has continued each season.

Harvest Season – Year round.             

Size and Age at Maturity – 5-6 inches/12-18 months

Historical and Current Maximum Age – 5-8 years/2-4 years

Juvenile Abundance Index – 7.29 crabs (size = 0-60mm) per minute for the 1987-1998 juvenile trawl survey (unvalidated). Juvenile Index for 2010 and 2011 was 7.8 and 7.4 for each year, respectively. Despite variability in abundance from this annual survey, there is no general downward or upward trend in recruitment.

Habits and Habitats – Migration and movement among various habitats are seasonal, depending on life stage, sex, maturity, and associated salinity preferences. Many different habitats are used during migrations from high-salinity ocean waters to the lower-salinity and freshwaters of the coastal sounds, rivers, and creeks.

For more information, email Lynn Henry at Lynn.Henry@ncdenr.gov or call 800-338-7805 or 252-264-3911.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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