Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Go Get Crabs!

Crab season opens in Maryland
Although Maryland’s blue crab season officially opened Monday, April 1, cool temperatures mean few are biting — yet.

Jeff Harrison, of the Talbot County Waterman’s Association, said April 2 that it was too early for watermen to start fishing for crabs and that the water is too cold for crabs to start feeding. Harrison said he only knew of a few watermen who had gone crabbing; they caught nothing.

“People are transitioning from the oyster season to crab season, it’s kind of a abrupt change,” Harrison said. Oyster season ended March 31.

Crab pots have already been meticulously prepared, though Harrison said he knew none that had gone in the water. Watermen have spent the end of winter painting the pots, re-tying ropes attached to the pots along with other meticulous preparatory tasks. New pots that will be introduced this year are also prepared.

Water temperatures also will have to warm up a bit before crabs emerge from the Bay, Harrison said. Temperatures have to be at least 50 degrees or more for watermen to catch crabs on a trotline, he said. Harrison said this is in part because of the crab’s molting, which rarely occurs before the first week in May.

“I’ve even seen it this time of year when you’re trotlining, that the crabs will bite better later in the day, usually it’s the other way around,” Harrison said. “So you’ll see people going out later in the day, ... Because it’s prettier in the afternoons.”

Joe Spurry, owner of Bay Hundred Seafood in St. Michaels, said he hadn’t seen anyone selling crabs this early in the season, but that bushels of crabs had been starting around $125.

“It’s a little higher than normal, but it’s close to normal,” Spurry said.
Soon enough the Bay will be full of crab pots; but perhaps our local crabbers should consider moving to Spain or Tunisia and start a new fishery:  Invasive Blue Crab a Menace in Spain
Meanwhile in Spain, the American blue crab is described as “an invasive voracious alien species, with no known predators and with high reproductive and survival rates, which has now spread throughout the Mediterranean.”

Put simply, blue crabs are viewed in the Mediterranean as snakehead fish are on the Bay: as a nasty, uninvited guest who feeds on other important native species.

According to the University of Alicante Marine Research Centre (CIMAR), the crab first appeared in the Ebro Delta in 2012, and has expanded all over the region of Valencia via sea, rivers and wetlands. CIMAR scientist Carmen Barberá is studying the best ways to control the blue crab population, but the crabs are multiplying faster than scientific research can be carried out.

Commercial fishermen say blue crabs’ sharp claws destroy their nets when caught. The Guardamar Fishermen’s Association, which requested the CIMAR study, says its members use gill nets to catch king prawns and cuttlefish in the summer. Without intact nets, they can’t make a living. Guardamar members are now experimenting with different kinds of fishing baskets.

The CIMAR study is focused on tracking blue crab migrations as they move from fresh water to the sea to lay their eggs, and back again. Barberá says researchers want to know where the crabs are at all times.

So how did the blue crab make it all the way to the Mediterranean from the U.S. Atlantic coast in the first place, and expand once there? Scientists believe it may be from the ballast water in ships, scooped up in North America and released into the water overseas.

The species also showed up off the coast of Tunisia in recent years, and the fishermen there say that now, they can’t catch anything but blue crab. They’ve nicknamed the crabs “Daesh,” the Arabic term for the Islamic State, saying the crabs destroy everything.
Catching Blue Crabs isn't that hard; they'll learn soon enough, but eliminating them will be nigh unto impossible. Maybe they need to import Permit to eat them. Permit really like crabs!

The Wombat has Rule 5 Sunday: Satellite Girl and FMJRA 2.0: Let’s Dance up and collecting hits.

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