Louisiana crab fishermen and their catch are feeling the pressure of a downturn in the state economy, and a resulting upturn of people entering the fishery.
“It’s a crazy business right now,” said Pete Gerica, the New Orleans fisherman who now serves as president or the Louisiana Crab Task Force, a legislatively-created board of industry voices that makes recommendations to state government.
In June the task force recommended a major change in how the state manages its crabs, endorsing the creation of a seasonal break to calm the number of traps on Louisiana waterways. Other measures recommended by the task force are also expected to be taken up by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission as the year moves ahead.
“We are talking a halt in mid-February and rolling 30 days forward, Gerica said. “That will be on the table as well as barring the taking of immature females, little maiden crabs.”
Rules to limit the number of fishermen coming into the crab business are already in place, including a required apprenticeship of sorts before a license can be obtained. But veterans say there are too many ways for newcomers to get around the rules.
Placement of 500 to 1000 traps per boat is commonplace on Louisiana bayous. A cooling off period of a month during which traps must be removed from the water before a new season begins, supporters of restriction say, will go a long way toward maintaining healthy stocks of blue crab, supporters of the new rules say.