ASMFC considers new FMP for Jonah, rock crabs

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Fishermen will have a chance to speak out in September about whether or not the harvest of Jonah and rock crabs should be regulated and, if so, how.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is proposing to develop a brand new fishery management plan (FMP) for Cancer crabs, which include both Jonah crabs, Cancer borealis, and rock crabs, Cancer irroratus.  At present, little data is available for either species and no stock-wide stock assessments have been conducted.

Jonah crabs by far make up the biggest part of the catch and bring in more money than rock crabs, but the two species are hard to differentiate sometimes.  Therefore, ASMFC is considering regulating both in the same FMP under the wing of its American Lobster Management Board, which met here Aug. 5 and debated the issue.

Cancer crabs used to be harvested primarily as bycatch in the lobster fishery but, in recent years, landings have increased significantly, especially in Massachusetts and Rhode Island where lobster landings have dropped precipitously and crab landings have become an important source of supplemental income.

In the 1990s, documented Jonah crab yearly landings fluctuated between 2 million and 3 million pounds.  In 2012, landings climbed to 11.5 million pounds worth over $8 million.  The catch was augmented by an additional 1.7 million pounds of rock crabs valued at $830,000…


Read the rest and much, much more in the September issue of Commercial Fisheries News.

Read online immediately and download for future reference.