Written by: Cluney Stagg and Marguerite Whilden

Major blue crab fisheries have existed on the Atlantic coast of the United States for at least 100 years,and on the Gulf of Mexico coast for more than 50 years. From 1990 to 1994, reported landings averaged more than 96 million kg per year, with a reported dockside value of more than $200 million. Until about 1950, Chesapeake Bay accounted for over 75% of the total reported U.S. harvest of blue crabs, but less than 50% over the last two decades.The United States blue crab fishery is made up of hundreds to thousands of small-scale fishermen. The commercial fishery has a hard crab component and a soft crab (recently molted) fishery. There is also a substantial recreational(casual) fishery for blue crabs. Since the 1950's, crab pots have accounted for the largest proportion of reported landings.Other major gears include the trot line, crab scrape and crab dredge. U.S. blue crab fisheries have undergone periods of low abundance. Changes in fishing effort and power, environmental conditions, ecological interactions and market forces have been hypothesized as causative factors. Management measures in the Chesapeake Bay blue crab fisheries have included size and life stage, season, and gear limitations, as well as entry restrictions. An historicalperspective should be taken in the interpretation of the recent decline in reported harvests. A 1997 stock assessment concluded that Chesapeake Bay blue crab stocks were fully exploited but in no current danger of recruitment over fishing.Key words: fisheries, management, blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, Chesapeake Bay.

About Terrapin Institute

The Terrapin Institute began in 1998 as a consortium of concerned citizens, scientists, resource managers, and educators dedicated to the understanding, persistence, and recovery of Diamondback Terrapins and other turtles through effective management, thorough research, and public outreach. We work to protect an abundance of adult turtle populations, preserve nesting and forage habitat, and improve recruitment. In return the terrapin has become the perfect metaphor for natural resource stewardship and public engagement; the face of estuarine restoration, and a gateway to the many wonders of our rich tidewater heritage.

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