Maryland to Eliminate Blue Crab Fall Closure for 2010

Population abundance allows for conservative adjustment

ANNAPOLIS (Aug. 4, 2010) — In response to a dramatic 60 percent increase in the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is taking steps to eliminate the 9-day female blue-crab harvest closure period that runs from Sept 26-Oct 4 for the 2010 season. DNR fishery scientists have determined that this minor adjustment to the 2010 crab regulations will not jeopardize harvest targets designed to keep Maryland on track to building a sustainable fishery.

This short closure to female harvest was implemented in 2009, along with season-long daily catch limits and other closed periods to ensure appropriate harvest levels of female crabs. The elimination of this short fall closure will provide for increased commercial harvest opportunity in the face of the 60 percent increase in crab abundance. The maintenance of strict daily catch limits and the June closure will remain in place, and the fishery will close to female harvest on November 10, as scheduled. The opening of the fall closure in 2010 will not guarantee that these 9 days will remain open in the future.

“We have been greatly encouraged by our blue crab population increases over the past two years, and we are pleased that we are now able to make this conservative adjustment -– one that will expand opportunity for watermen, while also maintaining safe harvest levels,” said Governor Martin O’Malley, who announced the latest numbers in April. “We also remain optimistic that by following the science and proceeding with caution we will ultimately achieve a thriving, sustainable blue crab fishery that will provide jobs and support our working families for the long term.”

The Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab population has increased substantially for the second straight year, with the results of the most recent winter dredge survey placing it at its highest level since 1997. The survey indicates that 2008 management measures put into place through a historic collaboration with Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission are continuing to pay dividends.

Maryland’s commercial crab harvest is controlled through daily catch limits and closed periods throughout the season. DNR has authority to alter both daily catch limits and closures by public notice, allowing the Department to quickly flex regulations each year to ensure that crab harvest remains proportional to crab abundance.

“This decision was made in close consultation with our partners in Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission,” added Governor O’Malley. “We are fortunate for this unprecedented partnership that allows us to work together to manage our joint resource.”

In Virginia the allowable period for the harvest of female dark sponge crabs is being extended by 14 days.

Source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

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