A HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

for

BLUE CRAB LANDINGS in MARYLAND

1928 - 1998



Prepared by Mitchell Tarnowski

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Fisheries Service



January 1999


CHRONOLOGY OF FACTORS

(* Pounds shown next to years represent statewide landings.)

1920's Conservation measures including minimum size limits which also accounted for the molt stage of the crab (hard, soft, peeler) and the prohibited use of gravid females (sponge crabs) have been in effect in Maryland since 1917. More recent restrictions (1927) prohibited the taking of other classes of crabs (paper shell or buckram and green or underdeveloped peeler crabs) after high mortalities of these types were observed in crab floats. In return, Virginia banned the harvesting of sponge crabs in 1926. Such actions are credited with raising harvests from an extended slump in the early twenties to record heights.



1928 19,412,129 lbs.

First complete year in which commercial landing records for blue crabs are collected by the State of Maryland.



1929 28,099,678 lbs.

A 30% increase in hard crabs are attributed to recent protective legislation in Virginia and Maryland. Crabs are found higher up bay than during the previous 20 years. This boost in production helps to balance the decline in oyster harvests in the seafood producing communities, especially those of the upper Bay.



The crab laws under Article 39 of the Code of Maryland are recodified to eliminate duplication and inconsistencies.



1930's Natural and economic catastrophes take their toll on harvests after a spectacular climb at the beginning of the decade. The industry is further hampered by severe marketing difficulties. One bright spot is the repeal of Prohibition and the return of beer, which is credited with boosting the sale of crabs. The resumption of the sponge crab fishery in Virginia rekindles an old feud between the neighboring states regarding utilization and conservation of the bay's living resources, but a more cooperative spirit develops towards the latter half of the decade. Scientific research on the life history and industry practices of crabs is initiated at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, contributing significantly to an understanding of this species and eventually leading to important conservation measures.



1930 36,938,783 lbs.

Harvests climb over 30% from the previous year. The upper Bay from St. Michael's to Rock Hall experiences increases of 33% - 100%, while the total Maryland income from crabs jumps 56% from 1928. Crabbing also provides economic relief to many people, especially farmers around the bay, who are affected by a devastating drought. In addition to the commercial fishery, the proliferation in crabs provides economic benefits to the area from increased tourism as recreational crabbing soars in popularity.



1931 33,841,160 lbs.

Crab production in Maryland almost triples between 1926 - 1931.



Chesapeake Biological Laboratory initiates a long term study on the life history and industry practices of the blue crab. The findings are the basis for future meaningful conservation measures.



1932 32,939,431 lbs.

Virginia allows taking of sponge crabs from April through June, despite the protests of Maryland and Federal officials.



Crab harvests continue strong. However, because of poor product distribution which is limited to nearby areas, the markets become saturated, dropping prices. This is further exacerbated by the depressed economic condition in general. As a result, crab meat packing houses cut production, and soft crab shedding houses close considerably earlier in the season than usual.



As a result of disease, eelgrass virtually disappears from Chesapeake Bay.



1933 30,097,129 lbs.

The repeal of Prohibition and return of beer results in increased crab consumption.



Because of the abundance of crabs, the season is extended into November (1 May - 30 November). In addition, this is intended to relieve some of the harvesting pressure on the oyster bars, since crabs at this time of year sell for higher prices than oysters. Although unstated, this may also have been a retaliatory action by Maryland against the resumption of sponge crab harvesting in Virginia.



A devastating hurricane in August during the height of the crabbing season causes extensive damage to boats, crab houses, and wharves.



1934 15,909,700 lbs.

The dramatic drop in harvests is attributed to the Virginia sponge crab harvest season (April - June). The severe winter, particularly the freezing weather in February, is also blamed in part for the decline.



Strong competition from Japanese imports and a lack of marketing initiative on the part of bay packers inhibit the industry.



1935 19,821,400 lbs.

Sponge crab season is reduced to 14 days in Virginia.



1936 15,563,100 lbs.

A scarcity of crabs is attributed to catching sponge crabs in Virginia and severe winters in 1933- 34 and 1936, including a hard freeze from January through March of the latter year.



As part of a negotiated agreement with Virginia, Maryland abbreviates its crabbing season by closing November to harvesting (Maryland would continue to shorten its season annually by regulation through 1947). In return, Virginia prohibits the harvesting of sponge crabs.



Better prices for soft crabs resulted in a shift from hard crab production.



Harvest statistics become more refined with data collected every 30 days instead of the end of the season.



1937 18,712,400 lbs.

The harvest shows a modest increase over the previous year. This is mostly in the early part of the season, when crabs are in good condition and have a good market.When the legal sized crabs become scarce, a law enforcement problem develops as the abundant supply of undersized crabs is too great a temptation.



1938 23,597,500 lbs.

An improvement in the quantity and size of crabs results in an increase in harvest. This is attributed to cooperative management between Maryland and Virginia (i.e. protection of sponge crabs in Virginia and shortening the crabbing season in Maryland).



Marketing problems continue to bridle the industry. An abundance of crabs in New Jersey and Delaware causes a drop in demand for Chesapeake crabs.



1939 27,296,300 lbs.

Overproduction, lack of demand, and newly developed freezing operations (Birdseye Method) which allows stockpiling of crab meat leads to late-season stagnation in harvesting.



A new crabbing gear, the crab pot, is first introduced to Maryland.



The Conservation Department, in an attempt to stem the illegal use of green crabs (crabs that have not yet reached the peeler stage) in shedding houses, initiates a two prong approach to the problem through education and stricter enforcement. The high demand for soft crabs encouraged shedders to use green crabs in their operations, but because green crabs need to be held in floats for a longer period than peeler crabs, they suffer high mortalities (a study by CBL estimated 5 million green crabs died in floats during 1938 in Maryland alone).



Tighter restrictions placed on the use of power dredging for crabs.



1940's World War II results in large numbers of watermen leaving their boats for higher paying, defense related employment or to serve in the armed forces, causing harvests to slump. Also, wartime restrictions are imposed on certain crabbing areas, further hampering the industry. The long simmering argument between Virginia and Maryland regarding the taking of sponge crabs and impregnated females subides after a federal agency report finds little correlation between the number of spawners and subsequent year classes. However, Virginia does create a sanctuary for sponge crabs. A new harvesting gear, the crab pot, gains widespread acceptance. Harvests soar after the cessation of hostilities.



1940 16,822,100 lbs.

Virginia establishes a 400 sq. mile sanctuary (reduced to 130 sq. miles in later years) near the mouth of the bay for the protection of sponge crabs. Nonetheless, harvesting of sponge crabs outside this area is still permitted in Virginia.



Low crab supplies are blamed on the persistent taking of sponge crabs and the winter dredging of impregnated female crabs (prior to developing into sponge crabs) in Virginia. Some mortalities are attributed to the harsh winter.



Crab pots already are becoming extensively used.



Overall compliance with crabbing laws improves, particularly the elimination of non-peelers from shedding floats and a better adherence to size limits. However, enforcement of power dredging prohibition is proving to be difficult.



A sharp reduction of mortalities (from 65% to 18%) in crab shedding floats is attributed to a decline in the use of green crabs.



A new crab canning technique is developed, allowing operations to be set up where crabs are abundant but largely untapped because of the location relative to markets. Excess supply can then find a market at the canning houses, but may also produce an extended glut on the market.



1941 12,811,700 lbs.

Crab production declines to its lowest point in over a decade.



Crab pots banned in Maryland.



Power dredging for crabs is permitted except in areas of Somerset and Dorchester Counties. Only two dredges are allowed per boat with a maximum dredge width of 42 inches.



The Conservation Department is given regulatory authority to manage crabs in the Potomac River jointly with Virginia, facilitating cooperation between the two states.



1942 15,693,700 lbs.



1943 14,267,976 lbs.

Under the auspices of the Board of Natural Resources, the Commission of Tidewater Fisheries is granted broad regulatory authority over the crabbing fishery. The intent is to allow for more responsive and effective management action rather than going through the cumbersome legislative process, especially since the General Assembly meets in odd years only. Recognizing the baywide, interjurisdictional nature of crab behavior, this permits the Commission to work more effectively with the Virginia Fisheries Commission (which already had regulatory authority) in the joint governing of this shared resource.



Among the first regulatory actions is to allow crab pots in the Bay proper and the Potomac River but not in the tributaries. Furthermore, the pots are restricted to a depth greater than six feet, since they were found to be destructive to small crabs and terrapins in shallower waters. Structural design constraints for the pots are also established. Licenses are required for pots, with a maximum of 35 pots permitted per license.



1944 18,267,300 lbs.

Virginia still allows the harvest of sponge crabs. Although Maryland vigorously protests the continued capture of egg-bearing females, federal biologists support Virginia's contention that its sanctuary is adequate and there is no causal relationship between sponge crab harvests and subsequent abundance of the crab population.



Packers are allowed to process sponge crabs in Maryland, although capture is still prohibited. This is to allow them to remain competitve with Virginia packers. As a result, large quantities of sponge crabs are shipped to Maryland for packing, despite Virginia's claim that catches were negligible.



The season is shortened through regulation by eliminating November to allow fertilized female crabs to migrate to their overwintering grounds.



1945 20,170,500 lbs.

Crab production increases, but November is again removed from the harvest season by regulation.



A report issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicates little correlation between the number of spawning crabs and the following year class.



During the period 1940-45 the total crab harvest was limited by wartime restrictions on fishing areas (e.g. around Patuxent Naval Air Station) as well as the loss of watermen to the services and war industries. Also, crab abundances were low during this time span, based on the catch per unit of effort. By October, these fishing restrictions begin to be lifted.



1946 28,031,700 lbs.

Crab season again curtailed to 31 October.



First complete season since the outbreak of hostilities that crabbers are allowed to harvest in previously military restricted areas.



1947 28,578,500 lbs.

Seining for crabs is permitted in Anne Arundel County, except for the Severn River. The length of the seine was restricted to 50 feet.

An improved system of record keeping involving daily reporting by packers is instituted in December. Previously, Tidewater Commission enforcement officers visited the packing houses, but the demands of other duties often resulted in irregular or incomplete reports.



Inexpensive Japanese crabmeat begins to arrive in this country, in competition with Chesapeake canned products. Cheap labor, combined with the size and abundance of the oriental crabs, contribute to low costs in the Japanese industry.



1948 22,482,900 lbs.

The number of pots a crabber can work is increased from 35 to 50.



The area where pots are permissible is expanded to include Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds.

CBL develops a self-culling crab pot which reduces the retention of undersized crabs by 90%.

Packing or transporting egg bearing crabs in Maryland is prohibited.



Crab season is curtailed in November by 15 days.



1949 24,463,300 lbs.

Restrictions on power dredging for soft and peeler crabs are lifted in Dorchester County.



The season is allowed to run through November for the first time since 1935 because of the

abundance of crabs and the minimal impact this would have on the population (in the past, November provided only 2.5% of the seasons' catch). In fact, during the past four years crab harvests have been relatively good, while long-term supplies were highly variable.



1950's Fundamental changes in the industry occurred during this period. The demand for large crabs for steaming greatly increased. Advanced methods of packing crab meat resulted in improved quality and increased demand. The ability to freeze soft crabs and prepared crab meat such as crab cakes and deviled crab meant the products were available in the market all year round, which in turn created a steady, stable market. (Previously, erratic supplies of crabs resulted in competitive foods gaining marketing advantages, particularly in the restaurant trade). Furthermore, the Bay Bridge opened, facilitating the delivery of seafood from the eastern shore to urban markets. While this meant an increase in processing plants for these products and consequent economic benefits, it also resulted in unprecedented harvesting pressure on the crab population. This was briefly disrupted by a series of hurricanes in mid-decade which caused considerable damage. On the political front, an ongoing dispute with Virginia over management of the Potomac River fisheries culminates with the repeal of the Compact of 1785 and the assumption of control by Maryland.



1950 30,420,400 lbs.

The crab catch is up by 25% over the previous year, resulting in a bumper crop. This is ascribed to yet unknown natural conditions rather than government policy. The number of crabs caught in pots has more than doubled due to the abundant population and the proliferation of pots.



Because crabs are abundant the season is continued through November, based on the recommendations of scientists at CBL. This permits greater utilization of the resource and keeps crabbers competitive with Virginia. Harvesting in November will be allowed through the present time.



1951 29,198,000 lbs.

The number of crab pot licenses increases 24% over the previous year.



1952 29,086,800 lbs.

The William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge opens, making it easier for eastern shore commodities, including crab products, to reach markets in D.C. and Baltimore.



The very warm summer contributes to hypoxic conditions in areas of the bay deeper than 25 ft., resulting in localized crab mortalities in pots.



1953 28,273,800 lbs.

Crabs are extremely abundant, including large numbers of small crabs. Many packers purchase crabs only 3 - 4 days per week, while other packers purchase only large male crabs.



Due to difficulties enforcing the law on harvesting undersized crabs, a regulation is enacted to allow confiscation of the entire catch of crabs containing one or more illegal individuals. Previously only the undersized crabs were confiscated.



Heavy mortalities in crab shedding floats during July are attributed to hot weather, light winds, and extremely low tides. Furthermore, low dissolved oxygen levels are blamed for localized crab mortalities in pots.



1954 20,182,200 lbs.

The season is extended by legislation to open 1April (previously had begun 1 May). Despite this, the catch is the lowest since 1945.



Crab pots are restricted from the Little Annemessex River by regulation.



Hurricane Hazel lashes the Chesapeake area in October, causing substantial damage to boats, equipment, and facilities.



1955 16,432,500 lbs.

Crab production declines even further. Due to a breakdown in the catch reporting procedure developed by CBL, the reports are incomplete. As a result, the total harvest figure for the year is an estimate.



Low dissolved oxygen levels cause crab mortalities.



To reduce the number of "semi-commercial" crabbers and to better monitor catches licenses are required for trot lines over 100 yds. in length except when the boat is operated by a licensed crabber.



Hurricanes Connie and Diane pass through the bay region in August, resulting in torrential rainfalls.



1956 23,036,700 lbs.

Because of earlier problems, a new harvest reporting system is instituted. Weekly reports from all packing and processing houses are obtained directly by Tidewater Fisheries inspectors.



A study by CBL concludes that the primary problem of the crab fishery is fluctuations in the abundance of marketable stocks. Furthermore, these fluctuations are caused by poorly understood natural factors; fishing effort seems to have little effect.



1957 31,838,200 lbs.

Crab production jumps 38% over the previous year.



The increasing popularity of recreational boating is causing problems for crab potters through the loss of floats (hence pots) and poaching.



1958 30,360,700 lbs.

A cool spring results in a slow start to the season. Overall harvests are slightly lower than last year.

A report by CBL cites evidence of a sharp decline in the crab population in recent years, thought to be due to environmental factors.



1959 23,160,100 lbs.

Crabs are in short supply. In addition, the demand for large crabs for steaming and the bar trade divert crabs from the picking houses. Because of the shortage, processing plants increase imports from southern states.



The maximum number of pots allowed is increased by regulation to 100.



1960's The boom in crab harvests continue, save for a couple of short interruptions. Nevertheless, the ever increasing demand for stemed crabs causes a shortage in the packing houses, which are compelled to import crabs from southern states. Recreational crabbing jumps in popularity with an increase in tourism around the bay. The Potomac River Fisheries Commission, a bistate agency, is formed to equitably manage the fisheries of that river.



1960 29,855,900 lbs.

A new method of harvesting crabs by using wire mesh pounds is permitted for one year by temporary regulation in a limited area of Smith Island area.



1961 29,350,300 lbs.



1962 31,553,100 lbs.



1963 19,042,000 lbs.

Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) is inaugurated on 1 January to manage natural resources of the river.



Bank traps and channel pounds are legalized in Tangier Sound and Smith Island.



1964 26,038,100 lbs.

PRFC establishes a separate licensing system for the Potomac River; harvests are no longer included in the Maryland total.



The unlicensed taking of soft crabs is permitted in the Patuxent River.



1965 34,692,100 lbs.

Crab landings are at their highest point in 35 years.



The crab season is extended to include December (1 April to 31 December).



The minimum depth of water allowed for setting crab pots is reduced to 4 ft.



Legislation removes no tolerance regulation for undersized crabs, allowing 4 crabs per bushel or ten per barrel under the 5 in. limit.



1966 32,256,900 lbs.

A scarcity of live hard crabs in city markets for steaming leads to direct marketing to the consumer, by-passing previous channels of market distribution through crab packing plants. This suggests that the harvest figures may be underestimating the actual commercial catch.



1967 26,774,200 lbs.

Power dredging is permitted in the last restricted areas in Maryland (all in Somerset County).



Crabbing with seine nets no longer than 50 ft. is legalized for the entire state.



One unlicensed crab pot is allowed from a privately owned pier on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and any state and federal holidays during the crabbing season.



1968 10,346,600 lbs.

A precipitous decline in the population leads to a shortage of crabs during a period when crabs are becoming increasingly important as a commercial and recreational fishery. The higher quality crabs are sold directly to consumers or retail outlets, leaving the poorer quality crabs for the picking houses. These, in turn, must import quantities of crabs from southern states to produce commercial crab meat.



A daily recreational catch limit of 1 bu. per individual is adopted.



1969 25,264,600 lbs.

Harvests rebound from the crash of the previous year, though not back to the average for the previous decade.



1970's Although harvests remain strong, they run lower this decade than the average for the previous twenty years. This is due in part to several natural disasters, including Tropical Storm Agnes and the severe freezes of 1976-77 and 1977-78, which helped suppress landings. A series of laws and regulations liberalizes the taking of crabs, both commercially and recreationally.



1970 26,515,200 lbs.



1971 27,605,100 lbs.

A landmark court decision removes county residency requirements for commercial fisheries. As a result of the Bruce decision, a Maryland resident can harvest in any county.



Bank traps and channel pounds allowed in Pocomoke Sound and certain tributaries in Somerset County. Structural limits are established for these gear.



1972 25,056,500 lbs.

Tropical Storm Agnes inundates the bay and its tributaries with an unprecedented deluge of fresh water. The storm does not kill many crabs but secondary effects causes the harvest to drop. Because of closures to shellfish harvesting the bay has a reputation of being "dirty", causing a depression in the market for crabs estimated at a loss of $800,000. Harvesting is also interrupted by the storm, and many crab pots, particularly in the upper bay, are swept away by the floods. In addition, the crabs tend to move to deeper waters away from the harvesting gear. Possible longer term effects include the destruction of seagrass habitat and the loss of bivalve prey species. All told, however, the harvest this year is only about 4% below the 25 year average.



Although the number of pots per license remains at 100, a new regulation allows an unlimited number of licenses to be purchased.



Limits are set on the size and weight of a crab scrape by regulation. The bar cannot be more than 42 inches wide and the weight cannot exceed 40 pounds. In addition, devices to hold the dredge to the bottom, such as diver plates, are prohibited. Seasonal and time restrictions for scraping are also established.



The number of non-commercial crab pots allowed is increased from one to two per property with a harvest limit of one bushel per day. Daily restrictions are also removed (previously non-commercial pots could only be set on Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays..



Collapsible crab traps and crab net rings are limited to 5 per unlicensed individual and 50 per license.



1973 21,052,100 lbs.

Crab production plunges to 20% below average. This is attributed to poor reproduction in 1971.



Conservation laws are recodified into Article "Natural Resources" in the Code of Maryland.



1974 26,481,900 lbs.

The harvest season is about average, with most of the crabs from the 1972 year class (despite T.S. Agnes).



The nearly sixty year old prohibition on taking fat and snot crabs, along with keeping green crabs over 5 inches wide, is repealed.



1975 25,917,900 lbs.

Natural resource regulations are revamped and codified under COMAR (Code of Maryland Regulations).



The regulation allowing confiscation of the entire catch for possession of undersized crabs is repealed; only the illegal crabs are removed.



1976 20,903,200 lbs.

Strong crab reproduction is observed.



1977 21,322,900 lbs.

The harsh winter of 1976-77 had a devastating effect on crabs, with an estimated 70-80% mortality. Although harvests are up about 5% from the previous year, they are below average.



Liberalization of crab regulations, including an increase in the maximum size of a scrape from 42 in. to 48 in. wide and from 40 lbs. to 45 lbs. in weight. Also, bank traps and channel pounds are allowed in additional areas. However, buoyed crab pot free channels are established in several high boat traffic areas.



1978 17,459,000 lbs.

The very cold winter and prolonged cold spell in April and May results in high crab mortalities for the second consecutive year, reducing harvests.



New regulations open Calvert and St. Mary's Counties to crab pots and establishes a bank trap and channel pound area in St. Mary's County.



Legislation abolishes the minimum size limit on mature female crabs and legalizes the taking of white-sign peelers, green and buckram crabs.



A monthly harvest reporting system with catches recorded on a daily basis initiated for all crab potters.



1979 25,782,000 lbs.

A non-commercial sport crabber license is instituted, allowing the use of trot lines over 100 yds. long and a 3 bu. daily limit.



1980's A new system for obtaining harvest information, in effect to the present, may have resulted in the subsequent doubling of landings, although crabs are also extremely abundant. For the first time in the history of commercial fisheries, oysters are supplanted by blue crabs as the most valuable seafood in Maryland. In a landmark court decision, residency requirements for commercial crabbing are dropped between the two states.



1980 26,451,775 lbs.



1981 59,694,803 lbs.

Crab landings are the highest on record.



A new stratified random sampling system for estimating harvests replaces the monthly census of crab pot operators. Under the new system, a sample of crabbers of all license types is selected at random. (Estimates of the harvest from this system have proven to be roughly double the landing figures prior to 1981. At the time this was attributed to improved reporting rather than an increase in crab availability, although even under the older system, landings would have approached the peak years of 1930 and 1965. Subsequent analyses of the data suggest that this was indeed the beginning of a decade and a half of unusually high crab abundance.)



1982 43,662,425 lbs.

Residency requirements dropped in Maryland and Virginia for commercial crabbing.



Tolerance limits for undersized hard crabs are raised to 10/bu. or 25/barrel.



Bank traps and channel pounds are allowed in all of Somerset and St. Mary's Counties.



1983 52,470,315 lbs.

Early harvests are slow due to the poor 1981 year class but the shortage elevates prices. Later in the year the high priced peeler crab fishery hits record numbers because of the strong 1982 cohort.



For the first time the dockside value of crabs exceeds that of oysters, thus becoming Maryland's most valuable seafood.



New regulations include:

- The taking of sponge crabs is allowed, revoking a long standing ban.

- Capturing crabs by diving is prohibited.

- The maximum size of crab scrapes is increased to 60 inches in width with no weight restriction.



The new Tidal Fish License allows an unlimited number of crab pots (previously limited to 100 pots/license with no restrictions on the number of licenses that could be purchased by an individual).



A daily recreational limit of two bushels per boat carrying two or more individuals is imposed (the unlicensed daily limit is still one bushel per individual). Also, the daily limit for non-commercial licensed crabbers is lowered to two bushels per license. The maximum allowable length for unlicensed trot lines is increased to 500 feet.



1984 48,770,764 lbs.

Harvest gets off to a slow start in the spring and early summer due to wet, cool weather.



The minimum depth for potting in certain areas of Pocomoke and Tangier Sounds and Smith Island is reduced to 2 ft.



A daily recreational limit of 2 bu./boat is established (in addition to 1 bu./individual). Also, the maximum length for an unlicensed trotline is increased to 500 ft.



The daily limit for a non-commercial license is lowered to 2 bu./license.



1985 56,416,858 lbs.

For the first time in Maryland, time restrictions are placed on crab potting, although the limits are confined to Somerset County.



1986 47,339,456 lbs.

Leased oyster grounds and portions of several tributaries are closed to crab scrapes and dredges.



1987 43,874,202 lbs.

Tolerance limits for undersized peelers are established, allowing 30/bu. or 60/float.



1988 42,994,686 lbs.

The recreational harvest is estimated to be 21.5 million pounds.



A two year waiting period for tidal fish licenses is instituted for better management of the resource (eg. adopt meaningful catch limits; act as a buffer against overfishing in good years).



1989 43,268,875 lbs.

Regulation re-establishes the prohibition against taking sponge crabs.



The blue crab is designated the state crustacean by the legislature.



A long-range, comprehensive management strategy for blue crabs is implemented through the Fishery Management Plan.



1990's Concern over the ever climbing harvest pressure on crabs results in a series of restrictions on both the commercial and recreational fisheries, including increased limitations on time and a moratorium on the issuance of new commercial licenses.



1990 46,838,347 lbs.



1991 48,627,671 lbs.



1992 31,353,002 lbs.



1993 57,625,281 lbs.

The number of non-commercial crabbing licenses issued is more than double the commercial licenses.



1994 45,546,516 lbs.

Fishing pressure has increased dramatically in just the past three years, from 94,400 pots in 1991 to 130,000 pots in 1994, due to harvesters working more pots rather than an increase in the number crabbers.



The Limited Entry Bill gives MDNR authority to establish a prescribed number of people to participate in any given fishery.



The stratified random sampling method for estimating harvests is scrapped for a census approach. Reporting catches becomes mandatory for all commercial harvestors.



Fishing effort (i.e. time of crabbing) is limited by regulation for both commercial and recreational harvestors. For the first time, restricted hours are imposed on all commercial gear types and on recreational crabbing from boats.



The non-commercial crabbing license is eliminated, creating a uniform recreational class of crabbers with no licensing requirements. The number of traps is limited to 10/person or 25/boat; previously the limit was 5 traps/unlicensed crabber and 50 traps/licensed non-commercial crabber. Likewise, trotline lengths were standardized at 1,000 ft./person or 2,000 ft./boat, whereas before the limit was 500 ft./unlicensed crabber and unlimited length for licensed non-commercial crabbers.



Recreational crabbers are limited to 1 bu./person or 2 bu./boat.



For the first time since 1972, restrictions are placed on the number of crab pots allowed to a crabber; limited to 300 pots per license, although additional allocations can be purchased for one or two crew members, not to exceed 900 pots per boat. A limited crab harvester license allows a maximum of 50 pots.



Cull rings are required to be installed in crab pots.



1995 42,162,413 lbs.

From mid-September to the end of the season, commercial crabbing areas are closed one day a week and recreational crabbing is prohibited Monday through Thursday. During this period the hours for commercial harvesting are shortened to 6 a.m. - 2 p.m. The season is shortened (closed on 19 Nov.) for the first time since 1948.



1996 37,701,414 lbs.

A shortened season is established by closing December through permanent regulation.



Harvesting is prohibited one day per week for both commercial (Sun. or Mon.) and recreational (Wed.) crabbing. Hours for harvesting revert back to the less restrictive 1994 regulations.



A moratorium is placed on the issuance of new crabbing licenses until current licenses fall below a prescribed number, limiting entry into the fishery.



The number of required cull rings is increased to two per pot.



A weight restriction of 45 lbs. is placed on crab scrapes.



1997 41,306,363 lbs.

The maximum weight limit on crab scrapes is increased to 80 lbs.



A revised Fishery Management Plan for blue crabs is adopted.



1999 A non-commercial license is required for trot lines greater than 600 feet long, with a maximum length of 1,200 feet, and for 10 to 30 collapsible traps or net rings. This license is also allowed a daily maximum of three bushels per boat, and a limit of three dozen peeler crabs per license. Unlicensed crabbers are limited to one bushel per individual and two bushels per boat, as well as one dozen peeler crabs per day.


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