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Blue crab closure set for January

The blue crab season closures will go into effect Jan. 1-31, 2021 in North Carolina state waters north and east of the Highway 58 bridge over Bogue Sound in Carteret County and March 1-15, 2021 south and west of the Highway 58 bridge.

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission approved measures to end overfishing and achieve sustainable harvest with the adoption of the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3 at its February 2020 meeting.

The blue crab season closure replaces the annual pot closure period and will remain closed for the entirety. Pots of any type must be removed from Internal Coastal Fishing Waters (excludes ocean) during the season closure and possession of blue crabs regardless of harvest gear type is prohibited from all Coastal Fishing Waters (ocean and internal waters).

Season closures are necessary to reduce harvest 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.

Division of Marine Fisheries Director Steve Murphey implemented the new measures through Proclamation M-01-2021. Proclamations are available on the division’s website, ncdenr.org/web/mf/proclamations.

Information on Amendment 3 can be found on the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan Information webpage. For more information, contact division biologist Daniel Zapt at 252-946-6481.

Proclamation M-1-2021, effective 12:01 a.m., Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, establishes the closure and possession seasons and these additional regulations:

– Prohibits harvest of mature female hard blue crabs less than 5 inches.

– Prohibits harvest of immature female hard blue crabs.

– Prohibits the possession of mature female hard blue crabs with dark sponges from April 1 through April 30.

– Maintains the culling tolerance for prohibited blue crabs at 5% by number.

– Prohibits targeted crab dredging and reduces the allowable crab harvest from oyster dredge operations when crab harvest is allowed.

– Requires crab pots to have a third escape ring with a minimum inside diameter of two and five-sixteenths inches as well as the installation location for the third escape ring.

– Removes the cull ring exemptions for the Newport River and eastern Pamlico Sound and further prohibits designating areas exempt from the cull ring requirements.

READ MORE IN OUR ON THE WATER SECTION HERE.

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