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May 28, 2017 10:40 pm EST
Location: 33.436N 77.743W
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MOREHEAD CITY — The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries is reminding fishermen that an additional escape ring will be required in crab pots beginning Jan. 15, 2017.

With this addition, commercial and recreational crabbers will be required to have three escape rings in crab pots. One of the three escape rings must be located within one full mesh of the corner of the pot and within one full mesh of the bottom of the apron/stairs (divider) of the upper chamber of the pot. For pots without a divider, one of the escape rings must be located within one full mesh of the corner of the pot and within one full mesh of the bottom of the pot (see diagram.)

This new regulation was adopted by the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission in May to improve the condition of the state’s blue crab stock. Management action was required under Amendment 2 to the N.C. Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan.

Other blue crab management measures adopted at the same time have are already taken effect. They are:

    Eliminating the harvest of v-apron immature female hard crabs (excluding peeler crabs) and including v-apron immature female hard crabs in the culling tolerance (the tolerance previously included only sublegal male and immature female hard crabs).
    Prohibiting harvest of dark sponge crabs (brown and black) from April 1-April 30 each year and including dark sponge crabs in the culling tolerance.
    Lowering the culling tolerance from 10 percent to 5 percent for all crabs, except mature females.
    Prohibiting crab harvest with dredges, except incidental to lawful oyster dredging as outlined in North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission Rule 15A NCAC 03L .0203(a)(2).

For more specifics on the blue crab regulations, see Proclamation M-11-2016.

Amendment 2 to the North Carolina Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan, adopted by the commission in November 2013, uses an adaptive management framework that requires annual evaluation of three biological indicators of the state of the blue crab stock. Management changes are required if the indicators meet pre-determined thresholds for three consecutive years, and the evaluation this year found that a management threshold was exceeded.

After adopting the stricter blue crab regulations in May, the commission in August, adjusted the schedule for review of the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan. Originally scheduled to begin in July 2018, the review began in September this year.

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