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Author Topic: Virginia Crabbing Article 02/18/08  (Read 1035 times)
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« on: March 18, 2008, 03:01:14 PM »

I pulled this is out of Washington news.

Virginia Crab Pot Season Opens Under Tightened Regulations
March 17, 2008 - 7:33pm

By SONJA BARISIC
Associated Press Writer

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Virginia's crab pot season started Monday under recently tightened rules, with commercial crabbers knowing that more restrictions likely are on the way.

Next week, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission will consider whether to enforce no-harvest sanctuaries for a longer time as part of efforts to restore the diminishing blue crab population in the Chesapeake Bay, said John M.R. Bull, commission spokesman.

And next month, the commission will vote on cutting by as much as 30 percent the number of crab pots a waterman may put in the bay and its tributaries during the season, which runs through Nov. 30.

Watermen fear being regulated out of their livelihoods. They argue that the changes are targeting overfishing but that pollution and other environmental problems are a much bigger threat to blue crabs.

Many watermen already have cut back the time they spend crabbing or have found other work because owning, maintaining and operating a boat is so expensive that it's hard to make much of a profit, said C.D. Hancock, president of the Coastal Virginia Waterman's Association, in Hampton.

"Fishing pressure as a whole has dwindled to the point where it's just a joke," Hancock said.

"I'm not opposed to any regulations, as long as they're well thought-out," he said. "There's a lot of environmental things going on that aren't being considered."

Despite conservation measures taken over the past decade, the crab population in Virginia is now 30 percent of what it was in 1991, according to VMRC.

In January, a panel of blue crab scientists from Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina who studied the issue for 10 months recommended that regulators act quickly to help the blue crab.

In February, VMRC members voted unanimously, despite protests from watermen, to approve a number of rule changes that took effect immediately.

These short-term measures are just the first steps, said Robert O'Reilly, deputy chief of VMRC's fishery management division.

"Clearly, there's a rebuilding effort needed," O'Reilly said. "That's what the commission has already started: a rebuilding approach."

The tightened rules include requiring escape hatches to remain open on crab pots to let smaller female crabs get free to spawn and increasing the minimum size limit for peeler crabs. Peelers are crabs about to shed their shells; they are sold for eating as soft-shell crabs.

In addition, only one other person may be authorized to work a waterman's crab pots, instead of the many previously allowed, and the number of watermen permitted to dredge crabs from the bay's bottom as the crabs hibernate during winter was capped at 53.

At its April 22 meeting, VMRC may shorten the winter dredge season from three months to one or ban winter dredging entirely. The commission also will consider cutting the number of pots allowed per waterman by between 10 and 30 percent.

Before that, on March 25, VMRC will discuss and vote on a proposal intended to make more crabs available to start spawning in mid-May.

Currently, crabbing is not permitted within a spawning sanctuary area from June 1 through Sept. 15. VMRC will consider closing that area as early as April 15.

___

On the Net:

Virginia Marine Resources Commission: http://www.mrc.state.va.us/


(Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
By SONJA BARISIC
Associated Press Writer

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Virginia's crab pot season started Monday under recently tightened rules, with commercial crabbers knowing that more restrictions likely are on the way.

Next week, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission will consider whether to enforce no-harvest sanctuaries for a longer time as part of efforts to restore the diminishing blue crab population in the Chesapeake Bay, said John M.R. Bull, commission spokesman.

And next month, the commission will vote on cutting by as much as 30 percent the number of crab pots a waterman may put in the bay and its tributaries during the season, which runs through Nov. 30.

Watermen fear being regulated out of their livelihoods. They argue that the changes are targeting overfishing but that pollution and other environmental problems are a much bigger threat to blue crabs.

Many watermen already have cut back the time they spend crabbing or have found other work because owning, maintaining and operating a boat is so expensive that it's hard to make much of a profit, said C.D. Hancock, president of the Coastal Virginia Waterman's Association, in Hampton.

"Fishing pressure as a whole has dwindled to the point where it's just a joke," Hancock said.

"I'm not opposed to any regulations, as long as they're well thought-out," he said. "There's a lot of environmental things going on that aren't being considered."

Despite conservation measures taken over the past decade, the crab population in Virginia is now 30 percent of what it was in 1991, according to VMRC.

In January, a panel of blue crab scientists from Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina who studied the issue for 10 months recommended that regulators act quickly to help the blue crab.

In February, VMRC members voted unanimously, despite protests from watermen, to approve a number of rule changes that took effect immediately.

These short-term measures are just the first steps, said Robert O'Reilly, deputy chief of VMRC's fishery management division.

"Clearly, there's a rebuilding effort needed," O'Reilly said. "That's what the commission has already started: a rebuilding approach."

The tightened rules include requiring escape hatches to remain open on crab pots to let smaller female crabs get free to spawn and increasing the minimum size limit for peeler crabs. Peelers are crabs about to shed their shells; they are sold for eating as soft-shell crabs.

In addition, only one other person may be authorized to work a waterman's crab pots, instead of the many previously allowed, and the number of watermen permitted to dredge crabs from the bay's bottom as the crabs hibernate during winter was capped at 53.

At its April 22 meeting, VMRC may shorten the winter dredge season from three months to one or ban winter dredging entirely. The commission also will consider cutting the number of pots allowed per waterman by between 10 and 30 percent.

Before that, on March 25, VMRC will discuss and vote on a proposal intended to make more crabs available to start spawning in mid-May.

Currently, crabbing is not permitted within a spawning sanctuary area from June 1 through Sept. 15. VMRC will consider closing that area as early as April 15.

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