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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Blue Crab Topic

Marine Fisheries

blue crab

Information on Blue Crab
Fishery Management Plan

Contact: Corrin Flora or Joe Facendola

Public Comment has Closed

Proposed Diamondback Terrapin Management Areas Amendment 3

Diamondback Terrapin Management Areas

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) recognized diamondback terrapins as a wildlife resource in need of protection from crab pot fishing activities and sought to proactively implement conservation measures to prevent localized depletion or extirpation in Amendment 2 to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan in November 2013. The division was granted proclamation authority to require terrapin excluder devices in crab pots. Prior to use of proclamation authority, the MFC needed to approve a framework for implementation.

In February 2020, the MFC adopted Amendment 3 to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan, which established a framework to implement the use of terrapin excluder devices in crab pots. As part of the framework, the division will present an information paper on proposed Diamondback Terrapin Management Areas (DTMAs) to the appropriate regional advisory committee for input. The framework also includes final approval of any DTMA by the MFC at their next regularly scheduled MFC meeting.

On April 8, the Southern Regional Advisory Committee met via teleconference to discuss and vote on two proposed DTMAs in the southern coastal area of the state, where fishermen will be required to use turtle excluders in crab pots. These areas were chosen to be the first DTMAs based on known populations of diamondback terrapins, as well as meeting depth and distance from shore criteria identifying them as potential interaction zones. Additional areas meeting criteria laid out in the Amendment 3 framework will be considered for DTMA status in the future.

The proposed management areas are:

1. The Masonboro Island Diamondback Terrapin Management Area, which lies entirely within, and shares nearly the entire boundary with, the Masonboro Island Estuarine Research Reserve and Natural Area. This area is also naturally bounded on the east by Masonboro Island, and on the west by the Intracoastal Waterway.

2. The Bald Head Island Diamondback Terrapin Management Area, which is comprised of Zeke’s Island Estuarine Research Reserve in the northern portion of the management area and the Bald Head Island State Natural Area as the southern portion. This area is also naturally bounded by a barrier island to the east, and Bald Head island to the south. The western boundary of this management area follows “the wall,” which is a rock structure that separates the Cape Fear River from Buzzard Bay and serves as the boundary for the Zeke’s Island Estuarine Research Reserve. At the end of the wall, the boundary runs on a line southwesterly to the northern tip of Bald Head Island.
Marine Fisheries Commission establishes first two state diamondback terrapin management areas
(May 15, 2020)
Diamondback Terrapin Management Areas
Information Paper

(March 2020)
Map of Proposed DTMAs
(March 2020)
 

Amendment 3

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission adopted Amendment 3 to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan at its February 2020 business meeting. Management measures were implemented by proclamation and go into effect May 1, 2020 in North Carolina state waters. Please see the news release below describing the specific management measures implemented by recent proclamations. Click here to go to the proclamations page.

The most recent North Carolina stock assessment for blue crab determined the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. Reductions in the harvest of blue crab are required by state law to achieve sustainable harvest, end overfishing within two years, and recover the stock from an overfished condition within a 10-year period. Management measures to meet these requirements were developed as well as additional blue crab stock and habitat protection measures.

Management measures adopted in Amendment 3  include:

  • A closed season (which will replace the current pot closure period)
    • Jan. 1-31 north of the Highway 58 bridge to Emerald Isle
    • March 1-15 south of the Highway 58 bridge;
  • A 5-inch minimum size limit for mature female crabs statewide;
  • Retaining the prohibition on harvest of immature female hard crabs statewide;
  • Retaining the prohibition on dark sponge crabs April 1-30;
  • Retaining the current 5% cull tolerance;
  • Revising the adaptive management framework;
  • Retaining the current cull ring number and placement requirements;
  • Removing all cull ring exempted areas;
  • Expanding the existing crab spawning sanctuary in Barden Inlet and moving the boundary of the Drum Inlet sanctuary to encompass Ophelia Inlet and maintains the March 1 through Aug. 31 closure;
  • Establishing new crab spawning sanctuaries in Beaufort, Bogue, Bear, Browns, New River, Topsail, Rich, Mason, Masonboro, Carolina Beach, Cape Fear River, Shallotte, Lockwoods Folly, and Tubbs inlets with a March 1-Oct. 31 closure;
  • Retaining the prohibition on crab dredges;
  • Prohibiting crab trawls in areas where shrimp trawls are already prohibited in the Pamlico, Pungo, and Neuse rivers;
  • Reducing the crab bycatch allowance for oyster dredges to 10% of the total weight of the combined oyster and crab catch or 100 pounds, whichever is less;
  • Criteria for designating Diamondback Terrapin Management Areas where use of an approved terrapin excluder device will be required;
  • Working with other commissions and state agencies to address water quality issues affecting blue crab.
New blue crab management measures implemented
(April 17, 2020)
Blue Crab FMP Amendment 3
(May 2020)
Marine Fisheries Commission adopts Blue Crab Plan Amendment 3 
(Feb. 24, 2020)
Blue Crab FMP Amendment 3 summary pamphlet
(April 2020)
Stock Assessment of the North Carolina Blue Crab 1995-2016
(March 2018)
 

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

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