Crab bycatch

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Lobster board has released a draft fishery management plan (FMP) for Jonah crab for public comment. The FMP was initiated in response to concern about increasing targeted fishing pressure for Jonah crab, which has long been considered a bycatch in the lobster fishery.

However, growing market demand has increased landings by 6.48 fold since the early 2000s. The majority of crabs are harvested by lobstermen using lobster traps. With the increase in demand for crab, a mixed crustacean fishery has emerged that can target both lobster and crab or both at different times of year based on slight legal modifications to the gear and small shifts in the areas in which traps are fished. The mixed nature of the fishery makes it difficult to manage a Jonah crab fishery completely separate from the American lobster fishery without impacting the number of vertical lines and traps capable of catching lobster in state and federal waters. A complete picture of the Jonah crab fishery in federal and state waters is difficult to ascertain due to the mixed nature of the fishery. In the absence of a comprehensive management plan and stock assessment, increased harvest of Jonah crab may compromise the sustainability of the resource.

The draft plan is available for review and comment on the ASMFC website.

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