South Carolina recorded a record-low number of blue crabs in 2023. However, a current bill in the works could change this going forward.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) reported the lowest number of species in 50 years. However, there has been a steady decline up to this point. The South Carolina General Assembly posted a bill on Jan. 11 to help sustain the species.
The state does not have any commercial and recreational harvesting limits and does not cap the number of traps or commercial licenses issued. According to SCDNR, South Carolina is the only state from Virginia to Florida that does not have a limit on the harvest of this crab. Dr. Michael Kendrick, a representative on the Crustacean Research and Monitoring team of SCDNR, states that there is continued research on all the factors contributing to the decline.
“I think there are several reasons why we might see changes in blue crab abundance,” Kendrick tells WCSC. “So, we continue to work to figure out the relative sort of impacts of these different factors.”
The species is vital in the state of South Carolina; they serve as a food source but also support one of the state’s oldest and largest fisheries. Annually, blue crab landings are valued at over $6 million and play a crucial role in the marine food chain, serving as food for bigger fish and consuming smaller marine life.
Commercial and recreational fishers alike have been voicing concerns over the health of the blue crab population. SCDNR provided recommendations after looking at the sustainability of the species in 2021. The recommendations have been turned into Section 50-5-400 in the South Carolina Code of Laws. This will establish a limit on commercial blue crab licenses and establish requirements for obtaining a license.
The bill also states that individuals are eligible to obtain a limited blue crab license if they possessed a valid commercial equipment license for traps during the 2023-2024 license year and have verifiable documentation of at least five hundred pounds of commercial blue crab landings during 2023-2024, 2022-2023, or 2021-2022 license years.
Read more about the bill here.