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Author Topic: MA Crab Traps: The Difinitive Discussion of Laws/Regs  (Read 4589 times)
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Jonesy02719
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« on: July 28, 2016, 08:48:25 PM »

After reading a ton of posts on this Forum, I’m convinced that a lot of people do not understand the use of crab traps in Massachusetts waters.

UPDATED Bottom line:  Professor Leaky has obtained info in writing on STAR TRAPS that is as good as it gets:
http://www.bluecrab.info/forum/index.php?topic=82321.msg724107#msg724107

In short, DMF believes fishing multiple star traps is permissible provided you don't exceed the limit.


I still fully believe the regs are completely confusing and don't address plenty of issues.  I will still be calling to clarify some other questions raised here.  To not cause more confusion, I DELETED a previous statement.

I think some of the confusion arises from the Division of Marine Fisheries “Blue Crab Regulations” Flyer that states:   “No permit required if you are dip-netting or using a “star trap” or other open wire trap” and “Recreational permit required if using 6-sided traps/pots.”   Unfortunately, this flyer is written poorly and gives the impression that open wire traps or multiple traps are fine for use without a permit.

Additionally, the rules imply that a person may use A (as in one single) star trap or open wire trap (aka ring trap) that is under their immediate control.   Once you use multiple traps, or leave the trap unsupervised/unattended in any fashion, you may be (edit: to clarify and complement following sentence) in violation. According to the statute, if one person uses multiple traps of any kind (without a "permit"), that person may also be in violation.

There is a regulation (322 CMR 6.02(1)(d) that states” The taking of lobster by any collapsible device constructed of wire or other material(s) that is fished in as open configuration until retrieved is prohibited. This prohibition shall not apply to the taking of edible crabs.”   That's the only concrete info I can find about open/star traps.

I encourage others to add to the discussion.  If you can actually cite a law or regulation to agree with or refute this, it would be even better.  I'll add more below.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2016, 07:47:53 PM by Jonesy02719 » Logged
Jonesy02719
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« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2016, 08:53:52 PM »

To further explain, it helps to have a grasp on the laws and regulations.  Laws (aka statutes) establish the framework of the rule.  The Regulations codify the standards related to those laws.  In addition, there can be policies and/or guidance that can further clarify the above.

Start with the law governing crabbing.  That’s Massachusetts General Law (“M.G.L.”) Chapter 130 Section 37.  It states in part:

https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXIX/Chapter130/Section37


  • No person…shall at any time catch … edible crabs in, or take them from, the coastal waters or place, set, keep, maintain, supervise, lift, raise or draw in or from the said waters, or cause to be placed, set, kept, maintained, supervised, lifted, raised or drawn in or from the said waters, any pot, trap or other contrivance designed for, or adapted to, the taking of lobsters or edible crabs, unless licensed so to do under section thirty-eight.”

Simply said, that means you cannot catch edible crabs, by pot, trap or other device unless you have a permit as described in M.G.L. Chapter 130 Section 38.   There are Commercial and Recreational Permits.  However, there is a caveat:

  • “Nothing in this section or section thirty-eight shall be construed to prohibit or regulate the… taking of edible crabs for use of one's immediate family; provided, that the number of such edible crabs so taken by any one person shall not exceed fifty in one day and such edible crabs shall not be taken by pots or traps.”

This gives the “immediate family” exemption that essentially allows the harvesting of edible crabs, AGAIN provided that no pots or traps are used.  However, this is also what allows dip-netting of crabs.

So now we can skip to M.G.L. Chapter 130 Section 38, which outlines the permit provision states, in part:

https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXIX/Chapter130/Section38

  • “A person shall not fish for or take lobsters or edible crabs in coastal waters or land the same in the commonwealth without a permit issued by the director or his agent. A noncommercial lobster and crab permit shall authorize the holder and the members of holder's immediate family...to fish for, take or land by the use of pots only lobsters and edible crabs for consumption, and not for sale, by himself and the members of his immediate family...”

The statute further defines what “immediate family” means, how many traps can be set, and how  many licenses a family can possess.

So, this section again stipulates you must have a “noncommercial lobster and crab permit”  to take crabs if you use traps.  A non-commercial permit is a Recreational Permit.

Lastly, the regulations (322 CMR 7.00) pertaining to permits also speaks to traps (aka "pots").  This is the regulation for the Recreational Lobster and Crab Permit, so even though it says "lobster" it likely applies to both fisheries due to the fact that it's one combined license.   It - specifically 322 CMR 7.01(4)(b)(2) - states:

http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dmf/laws-and-regulations/322-cmr-7-00-permits.html


  • Non-commercial Lobster. Pursuant to M.G.L. c. 130 § 38, the Director may issue a non-commercial lobster permit to authorize:
        a. Pot Fishing. Issued to a named individual authorizing the harvest, possession and landing of lobsters by means of pots for non-commercial purposes by that individual or by members of that individual's immediate family residing in the same household.
        b. Diver Fishing. Issued to a named individual authorizing the harvest, possession and landing of lobsters by diving for non-commercial purposes by that individual only. A non-commercial lobster permit may not be carried on board any vessel fishing under authority of an offshore lobster permit.

« Last Edit: July 28, 2016, 09:41:11 PM by Jonesy02719 » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2016, 09:35:55 PM »

Please post the link to the actual regs.   
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« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2016, 09:42:42 PM »

Please post the link to the actual regs.   

I amended the post to reflect the links to regs and laws.
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« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2016, 09:53:38 PM »

Though there are some ambiguities with the use of terms "pots" and "traps" in the regs, there is no ambiguity at all when describing the methods allowable to catch crabs without a permit, and those methods are by hand or dipnet.   

I agree with your assessment.

http://www.eregulations.com/massachusetts/fishing/saltwater/lobstercrabbing-permit/



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« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2016, 09:54:25 PM »

Masspi also makes note of the license requirment here:

http://www.bluecrab.info/forum/index.php?topic=26911.0
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« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2016, 10:32:28 PM »

Masspi also makes note of the license requirment here:

http://www.bluecrab.info/forum/index.php?topic=26911.0

I agree however I believe Masspi was referring to pots in that post which was from 2008.

In 2008 one was also legally able to take 50 blue crabs per person rather than 25 which is allowed today. The regs have changed since then. While collapsible traps are legal to use without a permit by either residents or non residents for the sole purpose of the blue crab species (regulations differ for "Cancer Crabs" aka Jonah and Rock crabs) it doesn't specify if only one trap or multiple traps are legal.

For example the sign which is posted in Wareham ( which can be seen here http://www.bluecrab.info/forum/index.php?topic=81280.0) states no permit is needed with an open wire collapsible trap. It also does not state that more than one is prohibited (We also see in that thread a post by a representative of the DMF stating that these traps are legal as it reads on the flyer).

However on the Eregulations site it states what very much sounds like more than one trap is legal: "Open, collapsible wire traps, hauled by hand, such as the “star” trap, cannot be used to catch lobsters, but are legal for edible crabs." http://www.eregulations.com/massachusetts/fishing/saltwater/all-about-gear/

Im sorry but I could not find anywhere in which it said using more than one of these "Open, collapsible wire traps" puts a person in violation. Nor can I find where it states that traps of this nature need to be registered and buoyed according to the same laws that apply to lobster gear.

Also what constitutes a violation of a trap being under direct control? Would being 10 feet away be acceptable? Would being 100 feet away be acceptable? Or do they mean you must be within line of site of your trap/traps or possibly not allowed to leave them overnight?

I agree that there should be more clarification however a lack of clarification does not automatically mean one is in violation of a law. A law that is frankly extremely ambiguous to begin with.

« Last Edit: August 02, 2016, 12:58:47 AM by chef » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2016, 10:54:08 PM »

Though there are some ambiguities with the use of terms "pots" and "traps" in the regs, there is no ambiguity at all when describing the methods allowable to catch crabs without a permit, and those methods are by hand or dipnet.  

I agree with your assessment.

http://www.eregulations.com/massachusetts/fishing/saltwater/lobstercrabbing-permit/


Or collapsible wire trap  Wink

The big question many of us want to know is how many traps of this nature are legal to use since there seems to be some disagreement whether its one or multiple.

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Jonesy02719
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« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2016, 09:46:23 AM »

Or collapsible wire trap  Wink

The big question many of us want to know is how many traps of this nature are legal to use since there seems to be some disagreement whether its one or multiple.



The problem is there is no statute or regulation that specifically addresses open traps for blue crabbing.  Anything you can find would be "guidance", hence the confusion.  The flyer states "a trap". The flyer is not a regulation or statute. There are more regs that state you cannot use a trap for crabbing then there are that say you can.

The eRegulation site is worthless without a regulatory citation. I put zero trust in that site.  If you want the regs, actually look at them on the mass.gov site or under DMF.

The major thing is that [IN MY OPINION] the open traps must be under your control and not left attended for any length of time.  If you want to fish 5 open wire traps that are in your immediate vicinity and under your control, I don't think you'd necessarily be in  violation.   However, with no clear regulation, the interpretation of the rules could be up to whoever decided to check on you.

Open traps have line/strings to pull them up, right?  If you are not manning them (like not attached to you or your boat), then how are they left?  Buoy, line dangling down?  If so, they are not under your direct control.

[IT WAS MY OPINION THAT] If you leave ANY trap unattended for any length of time, it's a violation unless you have a Rec Permit.  


« Last Edit: August 03, 2016, 07:50:07 PM by Jonesy02719 » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2016, 12:40:03 PM »

Hi all,

I work for the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries as the state crab biologist.  Our state regulations have not changed recently.  The attached sign correctly states our current regulations.  We are working on making our blue crab regulations easier to find and clearer.  If you want information on our state regulations, please call or email me. 

Here is a link to our recreational fishing guide which also contains information on blue crabbing http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/dfg/dmf/recreationalfishing/2016-rec-guide.pdf

Derek Perry
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
Invertebrate Fisheries
1213 Purchase Street
New Bedford, MA 02744
phone: (508) 990-2860 ex. 148
fax: (508) 990-0449
[email protected]
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« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2016, 12:55:25 PM »

Thanks for posting, Derek.  It is still somewhat confusing, but from what I can gather, the use of multiple collapsible traps is allowed?  Not just the single trap.  Can you please confirm that as I would not want anyone to be out of compliance unintentionally.  I came to this conclusion from looking at the sign with the regs and also at the pdf you posted, specifically page 34 which states:


Can I use “star” traps?
Open, collapsible wire traps, hauled by hand,
such as the “star” trap, cannot be used to catch
lobsters, but are legal for edible crabs.

I think the main confusion is in regards to whether people can use more than one trap.  That is really what I would like to see answered definitively.    

« Last Edit: August 02, 2016, 01:40:56 PM by Professor_Leakey » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2016, 01:53:41 PM »

I am not aware of a regulation that gives a specific number of open top/collapsible traps that can be fished for edible crabs. 

I think very highly of this site.  There is a wealth of information on here, but please don't let this site be your "definitive" source for regulations.  Anyone can post anything and it may not be up to date.  For current regulations please contact the proper authorities.  For Massachusetts blue crabbing regulations, please contact the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries   

http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dmf/

or call 508-990-2860
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« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2016, 02:09:41 PM »

The regs are very confusing and seem to contradict themselves.  Thanks for posting that number, Derek.  Also thanks to jonesy for pointing out the conflicting information.  The regs sign seemed straight forward but some of the things jonesy posted gave reason for investigating further.  I really do hope the regs are rewritten more clearly in the future.  This does not affect me but would hate to see others ticketed because they misinterpreted the regs.
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« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2016, 03:23:01 PM »


Open traps have line/strings to pull them up, right?  If you are not manning them (like not attached to you or your boat), then how are they left?  Buoy, line dangling down?  If so, they are not under your direct control.


While I appreciate all your research on this topic I would have to see an actual legal definition of traps being under direct control in order to make that determination.

Direct control could also mean that the trap is not activated until the user pulls the line which is how these traps operate. Until that line is pulled they are not traps at all but mobile crab feeding stations. Handlines attached to a bridge with the user 40 feet away could also be considered not under direct control if we were to use the definition that you are implying.

From what it sounds like, after reviewing all the info, is that open wire traps are in a different category than typical pots or lobster gear and are not addressed in the regulations other than to say they are legal to use. Maybe one day there will be clearer regulations written on what manner they are to be used and we can all come to agreement on the subject.
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Jonesy02719
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« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2016, 03:40:20 PM »

I am not aware of a regulation that gives a specific number of open top/collapsible traps that can be fished for edible crabs. 

I think very highly of this site.  There is a wealth of information on here, but please don't let this site be your "definitive" source for regulations.  Anyone can post anything and it may not be up to date.  For current regulations please contact the proper authorities.  For Massachusetts blue crabbing regulations, please contact the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries   

http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dmf/

or call 508-990-2860

With all due respect, that's why it's called the definitive "discussion" thread.  As you can see, I posted all of your regs that are on the State website.  So unless your agency or the legislature chooses to change them, those links should remain accurate.  The fact of the matter is that the regulating entity (DMF) has about zero accurate info on their site specifically dealing with Blue Crabbing.  And even your Rec guide has little to nothing.

Also, I spoke to one of your colleagues in New Bedford who pointed out the regs and statutes I linked to.  If any of those Regs or their intent is wrong, please correct them.  I'd love to learn more.  I'm sure others would too.

There is a ton of confusion out there - mainly as a result of that flyer and the rec guide.   Look at other posts on this site and you'll see that many people do not think you need a permit if you're fishing open (non collapsible) traps.   The whole concept of when you need a Rec or Comm permit is lost on a lot of people.

I think that producing better information is an excellent idea.  I commend you on recognizing that it is lacking.  May I suggest that you provide regulatory citations in your future publications?

Thanks again for adding to the discussion.
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« Reply #15 on: August 02, 2016, 03:41:52 PM »

Thank you Derek for clarifying this confusing subject. The MA regs are certainly confusing.
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Jonesy02719
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« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2016, 03:44:10 PM »

While I appreciate all your research on this topic I would have to see an actual legal definition of traps being under direct control in order to make that determination.

Direct control could also mean that the trap is not activated until the user pulls the line which is how these traps operate. Until that line is pulled they are not traps at all but mobile crab feeding stations. Handlines attached to a bridge with the user 40 feet away could also be considered not under direct control if we were to use the definition that you are implying.

From what it sounds like, after reviewing all the info, is that open wire traps are in a different category than typical pots or lobster gear and are not addressed in the regulations other than to say they are legal to use. Maybe one day there will be clearer regulations written on what manner they are to be used and we can all come to agreement on the subject.

Maybe Derek can elaborate, but from what I understand, pots left unattended are considered "gear" and therefore would be subject to regs regarding gear (buoys, line, escape vents, etc).

But there is no regulatory definition of "unattended."  You are correct.
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« Reply #17 on: August 02, 2016, 03:48:59 PM »

With all due respect, that's why it's called the definitive "discussion" thread.  As you can see, I posted all of your regs that are on the State website.  So unless your agency or the legislature chooses to change them, those links should remain accurate.  The fact of the matter is that the regulating entity (DMF) has about zero accurate info on their site specifically dealing with Blue Crabbing.  And even your Rec guide has little to nothing.


With all due respect I think I'll take Derek's advice.

These traps are not considered pots that is probably why. They dont fall under typical crab/lobster gear which is where I think much of the confusion comes from.
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« Reply #18 on: August 02, 2016, 04:50:44 PM »

I've read every words in this thread and still confused.  "NO ONE" on here with any definitive answer.  Here are what I'd like to know in black and white:

1. Do I need a permit/license to crab?

2. Do I need a permit using traps?
    Ring traps?
    Open box traps?

3. How many traps per person?
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« Reply #19 on: August 02, 2016, 05:27:03 PM »

I've read every words in this thread and still confused.  "NO ONE" on here with any definitive answer.  Here are what I'd like to know in black and white:

1. Do I need a permit/license to crab?

2. Do I need a permit using traps?
    Ring traps?
    Open box traps?

3. How many traps per person?


I used to think I knew how to answer to all of those questions.  I still think I do, but can no longer do so with total confidence.

What a pain when you make every effort to try and obey the laws, but cannot get the answer.  One writeup states that you can use traps without the permit.  Then another suggests you cannot.  So an EPO can stop you, and depending on his/her interpretation or which reg he/she is familiar with, you may or may not be in compliance.  I thought I had an understanding of the regs but this thread has left me with more questions than answers.  I have always held the belief that pots and traps were completely different, and that traps did not require the permit.  Then, the question of "under one's control" comes into play.  Here's a question:  when somebody is running 4 or 5 or more hand lines along a bank, are they all under that person's control?  Surely they are not.  Does that mean they must also have a permit?

Meanwhile, the river banks are dotted with dozens of people who take every crab they see, trash the place, and probably have never even looked at the regs.  Most, if not all the people on the forum here, are trying to do the right thing.  I really hope the regs are rewritten in a way that leaves no chance for misinterpretation.     
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