Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Virginia Cuts Crab Harvest

But not very much: Va. officials reduce female blue crab harvest limit
Whatever the reason, the number of female blue crabs in the Chesapeake have fallen below the level considered safe, and state officials on Tuesday made a move they hope will reverse the trend.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted to reduce the pounds of female crabs watermen can harvest in the Chesapeake Bay by 10 percent starting on July 5. The rule will last for one year.

Female crab numbers have fallen to an estimated 69 million, just below the minimum of 70 million, according to most recent annual winter survey of crabs. Overall, crabs are at their lowest levels since 2008.

The last time the number of females fell this low was in 2002, when 55 million were present. The estimates are based on samples from 1,500 sites around the bay.

The 10-percent reduction will be achieved by lowering bushel limits on female crabs.
A 10% reduction is probably within the noise band of the population estimates, and almost certainly within the error (shortage) on the reported harvest, so the reduction is mostly for appearances.  If they were serious about protecting crabs, they'd cut back the harvest more like 20-50%.

That said, crab recruitment and harvest is highly variable from year to year without much apparent cause (it's probably weather), and it's just as likely for there to be a banner crop next year, and if that happens they'll be quick to claim credit.

In other crab news, Crabs cringe at sound of predators
In horror flicks, creepy soundtracks are used to help scare the living daylights out of people. In a lab, two researchers used a similar device to freak out mud crabs in an effort to prove they can hear.

The researchers placed the crabs in a big tank and piped in sounds commonly made by fish that eat them. The crabs were scared stiff.

When mating calls and nest defense grunts of hardhead catfish and black drum fish played through an underwater speaker, the crabs didn’t dare venture out to dine on the juicy, defenseless juvenile clams the researchers set out for them.
I wonder if they've learned to fear watermen's voices.

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