Blue Crab - 2013
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 2012 fishery yielded the fourth lowest landings during the 10-year period of 2003–2012. Harvest from Pamlico Sound and its tributaries decreased and continued to remain below historical levels. Results of the 2011 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 – 2003–2012 – 29,922,500 lbs./$24,598,402 (Includes hard, soft, and peeler crab landings and value)
2012 Commercial Landings and Value – 26,784,188 lbs./$22,806,568
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 was developed in 2011 and is scheduled for final approval in November 2013. 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 species and species of concern, and the impact of habitat/environmental factors on behavior and abundance. Additional research and data needs are listed in draft Amendment 2 of the Blue Crab FMP.
2012 Regulations – Minimum size limit: 5 inches from tip of spike to tip of spike, for male and immature female hard crabs. 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 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 – 2003–2012 – 6.5 crabs/tow, 2012 – 7.5 crabs/tow.
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, contact Stephen Taylor at Stephen.Taylor@ncdenr.gov or 800-248-4536 or 910-796-7215 or Jason Rock at Jason.Rock@ncdenr.gov or 800-338-7804 or 252-946-6481.