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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 37 Blue Crabs SSR 2015

Marine Fisheries

Blue Crab

Blue Crab — 2015

Stock Status - Concern – Concern for the blue crab stock in North Carolina is due to reduced landings of hard blue crabs during 2007-2013, following record-high landings observed during 1996-1999. Despite the fact that the 2014 fishery yielded 3.8 million pounds more than the 2013 landings, the traffic light assessment for 2014 showed significant decreases in recruitment and adult abundances. The landings for 2014 were still below the 10-year period of 2005-2014. Harvest from Pamlico Sound and its tributaries decreased and continued to remain below historical levels. Results of the 2013 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 2005-2014 – 27,076,140 lbs./ $24,844,729 (Includes hard, soft, and peeler crab landings and value)

2014 Commercial Landings and Value – 26,231,322 lbs./$34,027,690

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 2 to the FMP is the most recent update and was completed in November 2012. Amendment 2 utilizes a “Traffic Light” assessment method which determines the condition of the stock and is evaluated annually 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 Amendment 2 of the Blue Crab FMP.

2014 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. Rules for Amendment 2 of the FMP became effective April 1, 2014 and provided the director broader proclamation authority to be able to implement the adaptive stock management measures contained in the amendment.

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 2005-2014/2014 (geometric mean)
                  Pamlico – 1.7/0.7 crabs/tow
Southern – 0.2/0.3 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.

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

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