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Author Topic: ROCKFISH EATING ALL THE CRABS IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY  (Read 6688 times)
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Harford Crabber
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« on: November 06, 2013, 07:20:40 PM »

Found this article just now on WBOC website.

Watermen Say Striped Bass to Blame for Low Crab Numbers

Posted: Nov 05, 2013 7:52 PM EST <em class="wnDate">Tuesday, November 5, 2013 7:52 PM EST</em>
By Tyler Butler - email
 
Description: Some of the Striped Bass caught on Larry Powley's boatSome of the Striped Bass caught on Larry Powley's boat
 
Description: Courtesy: Jack Brooks.  One of the photos circulating the Internet, showing crabs found in the stomach of a Striped BassCourtesy: Jack Brooks. One of the photos circulating the Internet, showing crabs found in the stomach of a Striped Bass
Hoopers Island, Md.- Watermen have been saying for months that striped bass, also called rockfish, have been eating crabs, and now they say they have proof.

A picture circulating the Internet since the first weekend of November shows a striped bass cut open with roughly 20 small crabs spilling out of it.

Watermen that spoke with WBOC said this is not a freak occurrence.

"That happens all the time.  Right across from here, I fish with my father in law right off the wharf, and one day we caught one that had 47, but see they're not gonna advertise that because I guess the Rockfish is the state fish now." said Larry Powley.

Powley took me out on his boat to show me how many striped bass there are in the Chesapeake Bay.  He says he has to throw back most of what he catches because the quotas are too low, which leads to an overabundance of the fish.  He says striped bass will eat just about anything that moves, and since bay grasses are at a low this year due to Hurricane Sandy, the crabs have nowhere to hide.

"We have no grass no more, and the crab just lays on the bottom and gets soft, and that fish is just waiting for him to get soft enough to digest him." said Harry Phillips, owner of Russell Hall Seafood.

WBOC reached out to the Department of Natural Resources to see if they believed this was why the crabs were so low in number this year.  They sent the following statement from Brenda Davis, director of the Blue Crab Program.

"There are no scientific data to support a supposition that Striped Bass predation is causing a significant depletion of the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab population. In fact, studies performed in Maryland and Virginia to assess the diets of Striped Bass indicated that Blue Crabs make up a small percentage of the average Striped Bass diet. According to an intensive study in 2000, fish, particularly Menhaden, account for 94% by weight of the Striped Bass diet. In fact, other studies have shown that cannibalism by large crabs was a major cause of juvenile crab mortality, accounting for 75% to 97% of the loss of juvenile crabs in certain locations. Juvenile crabs find protection in grass beds, which is also where Striped Bass and other predators find the best opportunities for catching them. Nonetheless, crab survival is best in vegetated habitats, where they can hide. Any effort to boost crab survival needs to look toward improving habitat and the protection of sea grass beds.

There was a combination of environmental factors contributing to the high mortality of juvenile crabs in 2012 including Tropical Storm Sandy, abnormally warm and salty water, decreases in submerged aquatic vegetation coverage, a large influx of Red Drum into the Maryland portion of the Bay, density-dependant mortality, and a large 2011 year class of Striped Bass.

We don't have a lot of data on impact of most of the factors on that list. However, we do have solid data that the Bay-wide harvest of spawning age female blue crabs has been at or below the 25.5% harvest target for five consecutive years.  The ability to keep harvest in the safe range puts us in a much better position than we've been in the past (specifically 1992 and 1997) with similar abundance declines."
 
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Crabslayer
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« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2013, 11:06:05 AM »

Is this the same Brenda Davis in the following article that said the influx of striped bass and red drum also contributed?  Where is her scientific data to support her following statement? Politics run amuck!

'Crab cannibalism' hurts 2013 harvest levels
Survey finds bay decline of more than 60 percent

WASHINGTON — Chesapeake crabbers and scientists say 2013 has been one of the worst years in decades for blue crab harvesting, and scientists are attributing the collapse, at least in part, to a murderous biological process: crab cannibalism.

Brenda Davis, manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Blue Crab Program, said last year’s count of 765 million crabs in the Chesapeake Bay was a 20-year high. And with so many creatures clumped together, Davis said, the crabs took care of each other.

“So when you get in that situation, there’s something called density-dependent mortality,” Davis said. “Basically, they’re incredibly cannibalistic, and they eat each other. … Last year, there were lots and lots of little crabs. So they’re likely to be eating each other at a fairly high rate.”

According to a 2013 dredge survey from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, crab numbers were down even before the crabbing season started this year. The survey, which was conducted this winter, indicated there were only 300 million blue crabs in the bay, a decline of more than 60 percent from last year.

Davis said crab cannibalism wasn’t the only factor that led to a decreased population. She added that Maryland’s warmer, saltier waters in 2012 also played a part, as the increased temperatures allowed fish like striped bass and red drum, predators of the blue crab, to invade the area.

“So water temperatures probably won’t have a direct effect on blue crab abundance,” Davis said. “But it will affect an abundance of their predators.”

Dan Brooks, president of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, said the declining crab harvest has severely hurt the seafood industry, even forcing some watermen to leave their boats and find new jobs.

“Just the scarcity of crabs,” Brooks said. “Prices are up significantly. But luckily for Maryland watermen, this has not only been a bay-wide event but a coast-wide event. One thing that’s kind of strange is that it’s up and down the East Coast. From Florida to Delaware.”

If the decrease in crab harvests had only occurred in Maryland and not across the East Coast, Brooks said, fishermen in other states could have sold their crabs at lower prices, taking away business from Maryland watermen.

Crab numbers in the bay have been low before, dipping to 254 million in 2001. To protect the species from collapse, both Maryland and Virginia took action in 2008, with each state imposing a 34 percent reduction in the catch of female blue crabs.

Those restrictions, combined with natural biological processes, led to the blue crab population recovering and reaching a 20-year high of 765 million in 2012. This year, both states have imposed an additional 10 percent restriction on the catch of female blue crabs.

John McConaugha, a professor of biological oceanography at Old Dominion University, said the states are taking the right approach. And because of that recent recovery, he said not to worry just yet.

“The good news is that it seems to be a very robust fishery and that it can come back,” McConaugha said. “That’s the thing with fisheries. You have good recruitment years and bad recruitment years, and they normally come back.”

« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 01:45:12 PM by Crabslayer » Logged

This is how it's going to go.  After I kick your A$$ i'm going to run you through the wood chipper and put you in containers in the freezer to use in my crab pots!  The really sad part?  You let an old man kick your A$$!!!
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« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2013, 05:12:10 PM »

"There are no scientific data to support a supposition that Striped Bass predation is causing a significant depletion of the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab population. In fact, studies performed in Maryland and Virginia to assess the diets of Striped Bass indicated that Blue Crabs make up a small percentage of the average Striped Bass diet. According to an intensive study in 2000, fish, particularly Menhaden, account for 94% by weight of the Striped Bass diet.

A study done in 2000? Hasn't the menhaden population declined substantially in the last 13 years - causing increased regulations and reductions of menhaden harvest? Predators, such as striped bass are opportunistic feeders - with the decline in their main food source (menhaden) I wouldn't rule them OR the influx of redfish, out of the picture. Crab cannibalism certainly exists, but I don't believe it would account for the extreme reduction in the crab population they are claiming for this year.
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Crabby Captn John
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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2013, 01:31:16 AM »

If there were that many bass and reds in the bay there would not be room for a crab pot as the fishing boats would cover the water.
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king crab 48
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« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2013, 06:56:43 AM »

They are also eating all the winter (blackback) flounder up here in CT.,  but theYUPPIES protect that fishup here ,  kind of like owning a lama.  Same old story; money talks!!   furious3 furious3 furious3
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« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2014, 11:20:20 AM »

Limits need to be increased to 4 fish over 18" per day per angler for 6 months temporarily, along the entire eastern atlantic coast including all tidal tributaries ! We will never gain ground on this over regulated fish until anglers feel it is worth the money they have to spend for each fishing trip,to fish for them. The Weakfish needs to be declared a gamefish NOW before it's too late for them also,The Striped Bass have eaten all of them as well ! bigcry bigcry
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Crabby Captn John
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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2014, 09:54:45 PM »

VERY Few rockfish in SE NC and crabs are stable to slightly down but weakfish are way down. Weakfish drop is being blamed on the trawlers by recs and not much to say by comms.
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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2014, 04:30:13 PM »

VERY Few rockfish in SE NC and crabs are stable to slightly down but weakfish are way down. Weakfish drop is being blamed on the trawlers by recs and not much to say by comms.

Cold weather kills more then all the rest combined.. Comm season was just cut in NC due to cold weather fish kill.
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« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2014, 07:45:10 AM »

Cold weather kills more then all the rest combined.. Comm season was just cut in NC due to cold weather fish kill.

On Speckled Trout.

Funny. Some say we have to many Rockfish, yet we have some downward harvest adjustments coming in 2015.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2014, 07:49:07 AM by reds » Logged

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