Sunday, March 21, 2010

Virginia crab harvest opens for first time after license buybacks

The Chesapeake Bay blue crab fishery has endured substantial change since a federal fishery failure was declared in September 2008 (Chesapeake Bay Program). Efforts to reduce fishing pressure have included a 30% reduction in fishing pots that may have helped increase the number of crabs collected in the 2009 winter dredge survey, although 2010 survey results have not yet been released (WTOP).

The 2010 fishing season opened in VA last week for the first time since the latest effort reduction strategy, a license buyback program, was conducted last fall. Declaration of a federal fishery failure made federal funds available to support the declining fishery. Both Maryland and Virginia received funds to buy licenses back from fishermen in an attempt to reduce the level of fishing. Virginia successfully bought back 359 commercial fishing licenses, reducing its total number of pots by 75,000 (Chesapeake Bay Program). Maryland, however, deemed the bids it received for its limited commercial crabber licenses to be too high and cancelled the program (Washington Post).

Time will tell whether the effort-reduction programs succeed in returning the Bay crab fishery to sustainable levels. Let's hope the 2010 winter dredge survey show continued increases in spawning stock.