LWFC: Changes likely in blue crab harvest regs for 2019

A notice of intent presented to the LWFC yesterday would move the closed season for female blue crab harvest from the spring of 2019 to the fall, according to a release from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Female blue crab harvest closing would move from spring to fall next year

At their meeting Thursday in Baton Rouge, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission adopted a notice of intent to change regulations for the commercial and recreational harvest of blue crabs in 2019.

The proposed rule would change the closed season for mature female blue crab harvest to Sept. 9 through Oct. 13, 2019. Currently, the harvest of female blue crabs is set to be closed from mid-March to mid-April next spring.

The proposal will also include banning the recreational harvest of female blue crab during that season. These changes are expected to result in less negative impact on the crab fishery while maintaining the same level of protection to the blue crab stock, according to a release from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Details on the changes are listed below:

•The recreational and commercial take of female blue crab from any of the waters of the state or the possession of female blue crabs while on waters of the state is prohibited for a thirty-five day period beginning the second Monday of September in 2019 (September 9 – October 13, 2019). All female blue crab in possession of any persons on the water shall be deemed to have been taken from the waters of the state.

◦These regulations will replace the previous 30-day closure, imposed in 2017, and the 60-day female harvest restriction imposed in the spring of 2018, and the previously proposed restriction in spring of 2019.

•Removal of the sunset provision on the currently established ban on the commercial harvest of immature female blue crabs, making the ban permanent.

Regulations on commercial female blue crab harvest to remain in effect in 2018 and 2019 are as follows:

•Commercial harvest of immature female blue crabs is illegal. A commercial fisherman may possess an incidental take of immature female crabs in an amount not to exceed 2 percent of the total number of crabs possessed. Crabs in a work box, used to sort or cull undersized and/or immature female crabs, are not subject to the restriction while held aboard an active fishing vessel. (An immature female crab, also known as a “maiden” or “V-bottom” crab, can be identified as having a triangular shaped apron on her abdomen. A mature female crab can be identified as having a dome shaped apron on her abdomen.)

•There is an exception for immature, female blue crabs held for processing as softshell crabs or being sold to a processor for the making of softshell crabs.

Interested persons may submit written comments relative to the proposed rule to Peyton Cagle, Marine Fisheries Biologist DCL-B, Marine Fisheries Section, 1213 N. Lakeshore Dr., Lake Charles, LA 70601, or via e-mail to peyton.cagle@la.gov prior to November 28, 2018.