ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Parris N. Glendening Friday issued new crabbing restrictions effective April 1 designed to slow the continuing decline of the state’s blue crab population.
The new crabbing rules, Glendening said, mean the state should meet its harvest reduction goal a year early. Maryland wants to cut harvests by 15 percent by 2002.
Citing research that shows a continued decline in blue crab population levels and noting that this year’s harvest was the second lowest in history, Glendening said these new restrictions are necessary to save the blue crab population from extinction.
“We need to double the number of blue crabs left in the (Chesapeake) bay to spawn,” he said. “Research continues to show declining blue crab population. If we wait to act aggressively, declining blue crab population will be affected even further.”
In the past eight years, the blue crab harvest has plummeted from almost 60 million pounds in 1993 to a little more than 20 million pounds in 2001.
The new restrictions include banning the possession of sponge crabs – or pregnant females – in Maryland, which are already illegal to harvest in the state. The restriction will eliminate the market for them in Maryland, which discourages harvesting them in other states.
Increasing the minimum size for peelers, soft crabs and male hard crabs will also allow smaller crabs to grow longer by preventing them from being overharvested. The State Department of Natural Resources will continue to enforce the eight-hour workday imposed last year, and will add two hours for trotliners and scrapers.
Based on concerns watermen have raised about the season ending early this year and in light of the new restrictions, Glendening has decided to extend the end of the season from this year’s Nov. 1 to Dec. 15 next year.