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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - nr-59-2019 Blue Crab

Marine Fisheries

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Release: Immediate
Contact: Patricia Smith
Date: Sept. 4, 2019
Phone: 252-726-7021

Division of Marine Fisheries seeks public comment
on proposed blue crab management changes

8-point rule

 

 

MOREHEAD CITY — The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is accepting public comment on proposed management changes to reduce blue crab harvest in the state to end overfishing and rebuild the overfished stock.

Draft Amendment 3 to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan contains several proposals to achieve sustainable harvest as well as additional blue crab and habitat protection measures. Proposals include:

  • Implementing a size limit for mature female crabs and prohibiting the harvest of immature female crabs;
  • Implementing a closed season;
    Reducing the cull tolerance;
  • Increasing the number of cull rings required in crab pots and removing all cull ring exempted areas;
  • Prohibiting the harvest of sponge crabs year-round and implementing a 3-inch size limit on peeler and soft crabs;
  • Prohibiting crab dredges and reducing the crab bycatch allowance for oyster dredges;
  • Establishing Diamondback Terrapin Management Areas and requiring terrapin excluder devices in pots used in those areas;
  • Expanding existing spawning sanctuaries and establishing new ones.

The draft amendment also includes an adaptive management framework that allows the division director to adjust the management measures prior to the next full management plan review if an update of the blue crab stock assessment shows the stock is still overfished and/or overfishing is occurring.

Details of the proposed management changes can be found in a Blue Crab Information Page on the division’s website.

The public may comment on the draft amendment in three ways.

1. Public Meetings – The public may speak at any of five public comment sessions to be held in conjunction with advisory committee meetings as follows:
Northern Regional Advisory Committee
 Sept. 12 at 6 p.m.
N.C. Department of Environmental Quality
Washington Regional Office
943 Washington Square Mall, Washington
Southern Regional Advisory Committee
Sept. 24 at 6 p.m.
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries
Central District Office
5285 Highway 70 West, Morehead City
Shellfish/Crustacean Advisory Committee
Oct. 1 at 6 p.m.
N.C. Department of Environmental Quality
Wilmington Regional Office
127 Cardinal Drive Extension, Wilmington
Habitat and Water Quality Advisory Committee
Oct. 3 at 1 p.m.
N.C. Department of Environmental Quality
Washington Regional Office
943 Washington Square Mall, Washington
Blue Crab Advisory Committee
Oct. 8 at 6 p.m.
N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Washington Regional Office
943 Washington Square Mall, Washington
 

2. Online Comments – Public comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. Oct. 3 through an online format that can be accessed through the Blue Crab Information Page.
3. Mailed Comments – Written comments may be mailed to Blue Crab Comments, P.O Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557. Comments must be received by the division by 5 p.m. Oct. 3.

The division will not accept public comment through email.

Reductions in harvest are necessary because a recent North Carolina stock assessment for blue crab determined the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. Overfished means the population is too small. Overfishing means the removal rate is too high. North Carolina law mandates that fishery management plans include measures to end overfishing within two years of adoption and rebuild the stock to achieve sustainable harvest within 10 years of adoption. At least a 2.2% reduction in the number of crabs harvested (in 2016) is needed to meet the statutory requirement. To increase the probability of successfully rebuilding the resource, the division proposes management measures above the minimum statutory requirement.

The Marine Fisheries Commission is scheduled to consider public comment and advisory committee input and select its preferred management measures for departmental and legislative review at its November meeting and give final approval of the amendment in February 2020. Approved management measures will be implemented shortly afterward by proclamation.

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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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