State keeping a lid on local crab

Published on Thu, Jun 14, 2001 by Brendan Shriane

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State keeping a lid on local crab

By Brendan Shriane

Folks who are used to crabbing all year-round might be a little surprised they won’t be able to drop their traps until mid-August this year. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has closed all crab harvesting while the Dungeness molt.

Blaine and Birch Bay are in the WDFW’s Marine Area 7, which consists of the area north of Anacortes to the Canadian border, including the San Juan Islands. Area 8-1, directly south of Anacortes, opened for crabbing Friday through Monday on May 26.

WDFW is keeping the season closed to preserve the health of a resource that is increasingly under pressure due to growth in popularity of crabbing and general population growth. “Crustacean recreational activity is at an all-time high,” said Norm Lemberg of the WDFW’s LaConner office.

“Crabbing has become so popular in the last five years. It’s like anything else, when it becomes more popular, we need to put on more restrictions to protect it,” Lemberg said.

“Crab for the last three or four years have been incredibly abundant.” The delayed opening is one of the tactics the department is using to make sure that continues. WDFW will use other measures such as licensing and catch cards to further protect the resource. The catch cards program, which started last year requires each fisher to record the location, date and type of fish caught. It must be kept on hand at all times. those who don’t have one with them will receive a $79 fine. The cards, which were recently mandated by the legislature, are a tool the WDFW uses to estimate the size of the harvest. “We need that information; we depend on it to manage this fishery,” Lemberg said.

All crabbing, even by hand, is prohibited this year because during molting season the crustaceans are extremely vulnerable. WDFW says seemingly innocuous acts such as picking them up can lead to death for the marine animals – they can bleed to death from even the tiniest wounds.

Last year, crabbing season ended early when it was found that too much crab was being taken in. This year the total harvest will be two million pounds each for tribal and non-tribal fishers. The non-tribal catch includes both commercial and sport crabbing.

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