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Marine Fisheries - 37 Blue Crabs SSR 2016

Marine Fisheries

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Blue Crab

Blue Crab — 2016

Stock StatusConcern – 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, and the results of the 2015 Traffic Light update. The landings for 2015 were still below the 10-year average for 2006-2015. Harvest from Pamlico Sound and its tributaries remain below historical levels. Despite the 2014 fishery yielding 3.8 million pounds more than the 2013 landings and the 2015 fishery yielding 5.9 million pounds more than 2014 landings, the Traffic Light update for 2015, while showing improvement from 2014, continued to show decreased recruitment and adult abundance in the blue crab stock. Results of the 2015 Traffic Light update indicate 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. Results of the 2015 Traffic Light update met the moderate management trigger for adult abundance identified in Amendment 2 to the N.C. Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan. As such, adaptive management measures were implemented in June 2016 to improve the condition of the blue crab stock.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2006-2015 – 27,746,411 lbs./ $26,189,832 (includes hard, soft, and peeler crab landings and value)

2015 Commercial Landings and Value – 32,134,406 lbs./$33,727,744 (includes hard, soft, and peeler crab landings and value)

Average Recreational Landings 2012-2015 32,221 lbs., 2015 – 23,634 lbs. (includes hard, soft, and peeler crab landings and value)

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 2013. 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). A Revision to Amendment 2 was made in June 2016 to adopt management measures required under the adaptive management framework in Amendment 2 based on the results of the annual Traffic Light update.

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 to the N.C. Blue Crab FMP.

2015 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 to 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. Additional regulations implemented in June 2016 and can be found in the June 2016 Revision to Amendment 2 to the N.C. Blue Crab FMP.

Harvest Season – Year round                           

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

Maximum Age – 8 years

Juvenile Abundance Index (number of crabs per tow) 2006-2015/2015 – Estuarine Trawl Survey – Pamlico Region – 1.7/1.7 – Southern Region – 0.3/0.2

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 Jason Rock at Jason.Rock@ncdenr.gov or 800-338-7804 or 252-946-6481 or Corrin Flora at Corrin.Flora@ncdenr.gov or 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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