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Author Topic: Daily Press Article 12/17  (Read 4002 times)
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TomPowers
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« on: December 17, 2004, 09:38:59 AM »


http://www.dailypress.com/news/local/middlepeninsula/dp-32051sy0dec17,0,6404356.story?coll=dp-news-local-mp
More crab restrictions called for
A marine science group says a collapse is possible if more harvest restrictions aren't made.

BY DAVE SCHLECK
247-7430

December 17 2004

GLOUCESTER -- Despite steady or slightly rising crab harvests in the Chesapeake Bay in recent years, more measures are needed to prevent an environmental breakdown in the crab population, according to a pending report from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

"When the bottom drops out, there's almost no way you predict this year that next year you're going to collapse," said Rom Lipcius, a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the report's senior author. "We don't want to get to that point."

To understand the danger, you must first understand the life cycle of crabs.

After crab larvae hatch in the bay between June and September, they go into the Atlantic Ocean and transform into something that looks like a cross between a larva and an adult crab. A month later, water currents help determine how many post-larvae re-invade the bay. This is called recruitment.

After re-entering the bay, the crabs migrate into rivers and the upper bay where they grow to maturity. The females then migrate back into the lower bay to hatch their larvae and repeat the cycle.

Poor environmental conditions and heavy fishing could leave the crab population more susceptible to disease and predators, enough to drop the bottom out of the crab population, Lipcius said.

A population collapse would devastate what is left of the bay's struggling crab industry. On the West Coast, the collapse in Alaskan king crab caused annual harvests to nosedive from 185 million pounds in 1980 to 16 million pounds in 1985.

The problem is that fewer female crabs are making it to the spawning grounds in the lower bay. That could be due to crabbing and fish predators eating the crabs, Lipcius said.

Virginia and Maryland have instituted several restrictions in recent years, including limiting crabbers to eight-hour workdays and prohibiting them from catching male crabs under a certain size and from harvesting in a 927-square-mile sanctuary in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.

"The regulations were supposed to double the spawning stock," Lipcius said. "The spawning stock has not doubled."

Lipcius said his findings may sound contrary to the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee, a group of state and federal researchers under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who use several surveys to rate the status of the bay's population.

The committee's research shows the crab population leveling off. But Lipcius' report - Professor John Hoenig is the report's other author - points out that the spawning stock, the number of mature females in the bay's spawning grounds, has declined about 80 percent since 1992.

Lipcius advocates spatial management areas - temporary, shifting zones in the bay and tributaries that would be off-limits to fishing while crabs grow to maturity and migrate out to the bay. Such restrictions would complement additional measures that limit catch.

The state agency that regulates fishing, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, is in a holding pattern on recommending new restrictions, waiting for a committee of Maryland and Virginia researchers to come out with a report on the crab stock early next year, said Jack Travelstead, state fisheries chief.

"It will be the first new stock assessment on blue crabs in 10 years," said Travelstead.

"We aren't in a situation where blue crabs are going to become extinct in the bay - we're nowhere near that situation. There is some threat of collapse, but I don't see it as imminent."

Virginia crab harvest numbers through September of this year show a 17 percent increase - 21 million pounds - compared to the same period last year, Travelstead said.

The agency's staff has recommended spatial management areas twice in the past, but the commission voted the proposals down after hearing strong opposition from the commercial fishing industry.

"I'm not sure it's something the commission will show a lot of interest in, although it depends on what the stock assessment says," Travelstead said.

Pete Nixon, a crabber who is president of the Lower Chesapeake Watermen's Association, said he hasn't seen the decline in the spawning stock that Lipcius reports.

"There's been more females around the last couple years than I've seen before," he said. Nixon said management zones will just force watermen to pick up their gear and crowd into concentrated areas where crabbing is allowed.

"You're going to solve a problem in one place," he said, "and exacerbate it in other places."
Copyright 2004, Daily Press
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mikesr
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« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2004, 11:24:18 PM »

Kristen  
    Sounds like the annual stories you get that coincide with the Blue Crab season.  Early in the year the annual story reads that "harvest is down/ prices up."  Then about the same time each season, after it is well underway, you get the story of how "good" it is/prices down.  
       I crack up when I see the seasonal "news" stories. It happens every year. The rag we have in Delaware rarely speaks for the entire commercial community.  
       After the season you get the "news" stories of the impending collapse. Roll Eyes Huh  It all depends on the source of the news story.  
    Are there problems? You bet!
    But even the best "crab" scientist will confess there are variables that just don't add up when it comes to predicting future crab stocks.  
       Last season the News Journal prints the positive story, then I start asking the comm guys on the De river and they laugh.  The problem is the reporting.  News stories mostly focus on a single opinion or two.  The reporters rarely dig for the real picture.  Check out he 04 reports here on the BCA.  In one region of a state crabs are gangbuster and in another very close by the answer is the opposite. Huh Roll Eyes
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mrscharms
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I REALLY LOVE crabs!




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« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2004, 12:20:12 AM »

Tom, I wish you would register to become a member of the board..it's free....you have a lot of information to give and I, for one, appreciate it!

Janice
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jack1747
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« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2004, 09:46:10 AM »

Tom, I wish you would register to become a member of the board..it's free....you have a lot of information to give and I, for one, appreciate it!

Janice
Mr. Powers is a member and has been for a while..  He just doesnt always login. Wink
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mrscharms
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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2005, 10:32:35 PM »

Ah, the lazy type lol! 
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Tom Powers
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« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2005, 08:17:09 PM »

No just a guy who is surfing  six to ten different computers.

Tom
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mrscharms
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2005, 01:48:27 AM »

Tom, I really didn't mean anything by that..I just wanted you to become a part of the community...I love your articles and  I just need the more personal touch!!  Please forgive me if I sounded rash!!

Janice
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