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Bushel of Maryland Blue CrabsAs a well known symbol of the Chesapeake region the blue crab is important to Maryland both as a natural resource and tourism icon. In addition to supporting a major commercial fishery, the blue crab is a valuable recreational species as well. For all of these reasons MD DNR and partner organization VA Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) monitors the blue crab population in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries using surveys such as the Winter Dredge and the Summer Trawl surveys. With the information from these surveys crab stocks can be managed and protected for future generations.

Proposed Regulation to Reduce Latent Effort in the Commercial Blue Crab Fishery

The Department of Natural Resources held two public hearings to discuss proposed blue crab regulations. The first public hearing was held on December 9, 2009 at 6 pm at the Easton High School Cafeteria, 723 Mecklenburg Ave., Easton, MD. The second public hearing was held on December 14, 2009 at 6 pm in Room 100, Center for Applied Learning and Technology Building, Anne Arundel Community College, 101 College Ave., Arnold, MD.

The purpose of the proposed regulation is to reduce latent effort in the commercial blue crab fishery to help ensure that current harvest limits are effective at maintaining harvest at the target level that was recommended in the 2009 Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Advisory Report, authored by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee (CBSAC). The full text for the proposed regulation can be found at www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/regulations/proposedregulations.asp.

The following information was presented at each meeting: Link To Presentation. Contact information for giving public comment can be found in the presentation. Public comment on this proposed regulation will be accepted through January 4, 2010.

DNR Retires 530 Limited Crab Catcher Licenses Through Buy-Back Program
DNR Proposes New Regulations as Program Continues

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has to date purchased and permanently retired more than 530 Limited Crab Catcher (LCC) commercial crabbing licenses through its LCC buy-back program. To further reduce latent effort (fishing effort that is not currently deployed) the agency is also proposing a change in regulations governing the LCC License.

“With the purchase of more than 530 licenses, the buy-back program is certainly meeting our expectations,” said DNR secretary John Griffin. “However, while retiring these unused licenses is an important component of our efforts to rebuild the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab population, additional actions are needed to ensure a sustainable fishery.”

The license program, which was launched in July, works on a first-come, first-served basis. With $3 million in Federal disaster funding dedicated to the program, the agency will continue to pay $2,260 per license until the budget is exhausted, or until it has purchased 1,327 — more than one-third — of the 3,676 existing LCC licenses.

To read full press release click here.

Commercial Limited Crab Catcher (LCC) License – Activity Status Request Form

The Department of Natural Resources is offering $2,260 to anyone who would like to voluntarily sell back their Commercial Limited Crab Catcher (LCC) License

The Maryland DNR announced that it is offering a set price for the Commercial Limited Crab Catcher (LCC) License Buy-Back Program. The agency began the voluntary Buy-Back program in July in an effort to reduce the amount of latent (inactive) effort in Maryland’s commercial blue crab fishery, below are details along with a form and instructions.

If you have not renewed your LCC license for the season 9/1/09 to 8/31/10, you can receive payment by completing the buy-back form and returning it to the address on the form. Please be aware, if you do not sell or renew your license before 3/31/10 it will forfeit to the state.

If you have renewed your license you must return the new license (9/1/09 to 8/31/10) along with the completed buy-back form.

If you have an LCC with no other authorizations (oyster harvester OYH or finfish FIN, etc.) you may mail your license along with completed paperwork to the address indicated. However, if you have additional authorizations you must take the buy-back form along with your license to a service center. They will issue you a new license. Instructions for completing the form are located on the buy-back form including locations and phone numbers of service centers.

You will not receive immediate payment. Payment will be mailed to everyone that sells back their license in 4 to 6 weeks from the time your buy-back form is submitted.

Selling your license is completely voluntary.

If your LCC is labeled inactive and you choose not to sell, new regulations proposed this fall will affect your license. If your license has been designated active you will not be affected by these proposed regulations.

Click here for Buyback Offer Form, including instructions.

To read related press release click here.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) held a series of open houses to address the issue of unused blue crab licenses.

In December 2008, DNR proposed regulations for the blue crab fishery that included a proposal to freeze all Limited Crab Harvester (LCC) commercial licenses that had not reported any crab harvest from 2004 to 2008. During the public discussion of this proposal, it became clear that a more extensive citizen participation process was needed. The Department withdrew the LCC license component from this year’s regulatory package.

“The Department remains committed to addressing the issue of unused crab licenses,” said Tom O’Connell, Director of DNR Fisheries Services. “We are holding this series of open houses to provide information that outlines the problems associated with unused crab licenses, provide responses to the concerns that have been raised by the public comment period and ask the public to provide constructive suggestions for short and long term solutions.”

The Open Houses are designed as educational exhibits that the public can attend at any time during the opening hours and stay as long as they wish. DNR Staff will be on hand to discuss the potential problems associated with unused crab licenses and listen to constructive input about possible solutions. For more information, call the Blue Crab Hotline at 410-260-8286.

If you were not able to attend any of the open houses but would like to see the primary information presented, please go to www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/crab/OpenHouse2009_41609.pdf * updated on May 14.

Feedback regarding the information presented at the blue crab open houses is welcome and encouraged, to submit comments please go to dnrweb.dnr.state.md.us/fish/feedback/bluecrabform.asp

To review the comments made in response to the Open Houses click here.

 Maryland DNR, The Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, and the Virginia Marine Resources
 Commission release the results of the 2008-2009 winter dredge survey.

Click here for information regarding the results of the 2009 survey .

 Maryland Announces Preliminary Estimates of the 2008 Commercial Female Blue Crab

Maryland currently estimates that the 2008 commercial female harvest was reduced by 25 to 33%. Based on preliminary analyses of DNR independent surveys, Maryland estimates that 8.5 to 10.5 million pounds of female crabs were landed in 2008. The presentation of a range of harvest and harvest reduction in the 2008 fishery is due to significant discrepancies that have appeared between 2008 harvest reports and concurrent, independent measures of harvest observed in DNR surveys.

For background on the independent harvest measures and an analysis of the 2008 harvest discrepancy click here.

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