Marine Fisheries Commission adopts new blue crab management rules

Published 9:31 am Thursday, March 5, 2020

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At its meeting Feb. 20, the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission approved Amendment 3 to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan.

A media release from the Division of Coastal Management reports the adopted measures are aimed at ending overfishing and achieving sustainable harvest of blue crabs.

Management measures will be implemented by proclamation in the coming weeks, reports the division.

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Adopted management measures include:

– A closed season (which will replace the current pot closure period): Jan. 1-31 north of the Highway 58 bridge; 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 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;

– 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;

– Using 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.

According to the MFC, 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.



Rose Bay Canal Boat Launch remains temporarily closed on Lake Mattamuskeet