Science 10 December 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6010 p. 1474 DOI:
News Focus Fisheries
Chesapeake Crabs: Engineering a Rebound
By stopping harvesting early in Chesapeake Bay, when the fall female
migration is at its peak, one of the world's largest crab fisheries was brought
from the brink of collapse to a healthy population in just 3 years. A winter
dredge of buried hibernating pregnant females in Virginia—which killed two
females for every one caught—was also closed. Those fishers were hired with
federal funds to recover lost traps, which continue to kill scores of crabs.
Finally, a spawning-season sanctuary was extended. As a result, the spring 2009
survey of 1500 spots up and down the bay found that the female population had
climbed by 70%, while the male population barely changed. This spring, the
survey showed that the number of females was up 200% over the 2008 figure.
Overall, the number of crabs has soared from 131 million in 2008 to 315 million
Monday, December 20, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
See this from Tampa Bay Online:
FWC proposes changes to blue crab rules
LAKELAND - The Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) proposed a series of draft rule
amendments to modify blue crab regulations. These proposals include some
recommendations by the FWC's Blue Crab Advisory Board, which helps the
Commission manage Florida's blue crab fishery, as well as some technical blue
One proposed rule amendment by the board would change the
six annual regional, 10-day blue crab trap closures to occur every other year.
The January closure to the harvest of blue crabs with traps in the St. Johns
River system and the August closures in Nassau through Palm Beach counties would
occur in even-numbered calendar years only. The July closures in Broward through
Wakulla counties and the January closure in Franklin through Escambia counties
would occur in odd-numbered calendar years only. This proposed change would help
focus trap cleanup efforts in each region and lessen the economic impact of the
closures on individual crabbers.
Other board-proposed rule amendments would
change the blue crab license-endorsement transfer window from September through
December to May through February to increase opportunities for crabbers to
transfer their endorsements to someone else and allow initial blue crab trap
tags to be ordered at any time.
The FWC also is proposing technical rule
amendments that would allow qualified blue crab harvesters to designate another
of their own vessels to be used to temporarily pull blue crab traps while their
regular vessel is repaired or replaced and clarify that soft shell blue crab
harvesters may hold only two soft shell endorsements at one time.
will hold a final public hearing on these blue crab draft rule proposals at its
December meeting in Weston. More information regarding the proposed draft rules
is available online at MyFWC.com/Commission, linked from the Sept. 1-3 meeting
It's a different story in Florida, where crab harvests are good after a rainy spring and summer. I find it a bit odd that every article I've found about the blue crab harvest in Florida includes instructions on how to cook them, but you might as well create a market for all the crabs that are caught to keep prices up.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
“The FDA has advised that, following extensive sensory testing and chemical
analysis, tissue samples tested indicate that crabs from these previously closed
areas south of the barrier islands are safe for consumption,” stated a news
release from DMR and DEQ. “Testing for crab tissues includes specimens of
special interest, such as those with dark gills, brought to DMR’s attention by
concerned fishermen and the public; all of these samples have been determined to
be safe for consumption as well.”
Jewell said no exact cause has been determined for the dark gills found
on some crabs, but low dissolved oxygen levels and sediment are suspected.
“A lot of the low dissolved oxygen in our waters is because we have
very high temperatures,” he said. “That can be part of the issue, but I don’t
think it is any one thing.”
The crabs with dark gills that been brought to DMR by the public have
come from upper bay areas, he said. “There is a lot of sediment and a lot of
suspended sediment and that tends to get entrapped on the crabs’ gills,
particularly crabs that are stressed.”
The darkening is not found on any other crab organs, he said, “which
tends to indicate it has to do with respiration.”
Crab samples tested, including the dark gills, have returned as free of
oil or trace amounts in the parts per trillion range were found, he said.
“Anything they are finding is way below the NOAA protocol,” he
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Adult blue crabs are distinctive. Olive shell set off with blue legs and claws and an undeniable fighting spirit. Young larvae and juveniles, however, are very difficult to distinguish from some of their close cousins. I had great news last week that a manuscript I have been working on since 2005 was accepted to the Journal of Crustacean Biology and is due out in early 2011. When I first started studying blue crabs in 2004, I was faced with the challenge of separating blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) megalopae from those of the lesser blue crab (Callinectes similis). I couldn’t make heads or tails of the problem because the original descriptions of the megalopae didn’t seem to match what I was collecting in the wild. A colleague was kind enough to pass along an unpublished manuscript by Ken Stuck and others that made separation of the species possible, if still not exactly easy at first. After contacting the authors of the original publication for permission, I combined data from the original manuscript with new data that I collected, and submitted the new manuscript. It includes drawings of both blue crab and lesser blue crab megalopae and juveniles and keys for separating them from similar species occurring along the US Atlantic and Gulf coasts. If a copy of the manuscript would be useful for your work, please contact me and I’ll send one your way.
Have new blue crab research your are publishing? Send a description and I'll include it in the blog.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Along parts of the Atlantic coast, things are looking better for crabs and crabbers than they have in over a decade. Restrictions on fishing in the Chesapeake Bay have led to high numbers of spawning females and, for the first time this spring, a significant increase in the number of juveniles. Some of the increase in reproduction could spill over into adjacent states, especially the Albemarle-Pamlico sound region of North Carolina.
Here's to hoping the new generation is a good one.
Friday, June 18, 2010
The low harvest in LA is causing the price of fresh crabs to rise (WHYY - Philadelphia).
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
From the Daily Press in Newport News, VA (link):
"HAYES - Dr. Willard A. Van Engel (known as "Van"), professor emeritus with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, died Dec. 25, 2009, at the age of 94.A native of Milwaukee, Wis., Dr. Van Engel received his bachelor and master degrees in the late 1930s from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Van was stationed in Europe, where he served as a meteorologist in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. In 1946, he moved to Yorktown and became affiliated with VIMS (which was then named the Virginia Fisheries Laboratory), where he developed an interest in blue crab research.
At a time when calculations were done with slide rules and adding machines, Van and his colleagues were on the cutting edge of research in the Chesapeake Bay. Van's early papers on the blue crab fishery formed the fundamental nucleus of work in the field. He and his colleagues at the Virginia Fisheries Laboratory, in the late 40s, had the great foresight to create what has grown to be the diverse academic community of VIMS today. In 1947, Van accurately predicted the need for keeping duplicates and reprints of scientific papers and reports in a centralized location, thus, Van became the founder of the VIMS Library. At the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in 1948, Van and others, who at the time called themselves the "Brackish Boys," created what later became known as the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society, of which Van was the first Secretary-Treasurer. William W. Warner, the author of Beautiful Swimmers, called Van "the complete estuaries biologist, as much at home in theoretical discussions with his scientist colleagues as he is in meeting with watermen throughout the Bay . . . ."
Besides his key relationships with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, industry, and watermen, Van also foresaw the need for a fisheries survey for the blue crab, which has become the longest ongoing data set for the blue crab, or any other Portunid (swimming) crab worldwide. Van's varied research interests included many areas we take for granted today such as the relationship between recruitment dynamics and environmental parameters. When Van retired from VIMS in 1985, at the age of 70, he was the longest serving employee at almost 39 years. A year later, Van created a fellowship to support graduate student research on crustaceans.
In recent years, he received two significant recognitions. In 2003, VIMS presented Dr. Van Engel its first Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding academic and scientific research contributions and continued support to VIMS, and in 2006, the College of William and Mary presented him an honorary doctorate of science. After retirement, he enjoyed riding his horses, sharing with his friends and being an active member of the Gloucester Point Rotary Club.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Maurice and Frieda Aaron Van Engel; and brothers, Earl L., and Maurice B. Van Engel.
The Van Engel Fellowship Board would like to extend sincere appreciation and thanks to Jerry and Anne Edwards for their friendship, love and care they contributed to the life and times of this wonderful man. At his request, services will be private and to continue the legacy he established for students, memorial contributions may be made to The Willard A. Van Engel Fellowship, Inc., VIMS, c/o Robert Harris Jr., Treasurer, P. O. Box 1346, Gloucester Point, VA 23062-1346. "