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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Blue Crab - stock status report

Marine Fisheries

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Blue Crab

Blue Crab

Stock Status – Concern – Increased 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 2010 fishery yielded the fifth lowest landings during the 10-year period of 2001-2010. Harvest from the Pamlico/Core sounds and tributaries increased, but continue to remain significantly below historical levels.

Average Commercial Landings and Value – 2001-2010 – 31,232,352 lbs./$26,727,534
(Includes hard, soft, and peeler crab landings and value)

2010 Commercial Landings and Value – 30,684,249 lbs./$26,543,733

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. Development of Amendment 2 of the Blue Crab FMP is in progress and scheduled for completion some time in 2012.

Research and Data Needs – Fishery-independent index of abundance, recreational landings estimates, fishery effort and economics, and the impact of environmental factors on behavior and abundance. Additional research and data needs are listed in the 2004 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 2009 and 2010 was 7.8 for each year. 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, contact Lynn Henry at Lynn.Henry@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-338-7805 or (252) 264-3911 or Sean McKenna at Sean.Mckenna@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-338-7804 or (252) 946-6481.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • (252) 726-7021 or 1-800-682-2632

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