Recreational Crabber Charged with Violations, Failing to Protect Turtles - Southern Maryland Headline News

Recreational Crabber Charged with Violations, Failing to Protect Turtles

ANNAPOLIS (July 22, 2016)—A St. Mary's County man has been charged with possessing undersized crabs and failing to equip his crab pots with devices to prevent the drowning of diamondback terrapins.

Officers saw Joseph William Sullivan, 47, of St. Inigoes, crabbing off the dock of his home on June 15 and returned to check his catch. They discovered he was fishing 16 pots, 14 more than allowed a recreational crabber. Additionally, his floating live well contained undersized crabs. Further, none of his pots had a Bycatch Reduction Device, also known as Turtle Excluder Device, as required by Maryland law.

The diamondback terrapin is the state reptile, the University of Maryland mascot, and the only turtle that lives its entire life in the tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Terrapins are drawn to the same bait used to attract blue crabs. Recreational crab pots are typically set in shallow, near-shore waters along creeks and marshes, the same locations terrapins live.

The 1 3/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch rectangular device is easy to install and allows crabs to enter a pot but excludes terrapins. Turtles and other animals that enter pots without such a device cannot escape and drown. Studies have shown that while effective at preventing other animals from entering, the excluding devices have little impact on the size and number of blue crabs caught.

Crab pots used by waterfront property owners in Maryland must be marked with the owner's name and address and fitted with a by-catch reduction device at every funnel entrance.

Plastic bycatch reduction devices are found in many marine and tackle shops and often cost less than $2. Crabbers can also make their pots turtle-safe by following instructions found at

Sullivan is scheduled to appear in St. Mary's District Court on Aug. 4. If found guilty of all three charges, he could be fined as much as $3,000.

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