A new report released by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says blue crab was overfished in 2015, suggesting that measures should be taken to keep the species viable.
But crabbers have come up with their own game plan that they hope will fix the problem, pending final approval by state authorities.
“We had to take action,” said crab processor Trudy Luke of Dulac, La., who is chair of the state’s Crab Task Force. “If we didn’t take action, the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission would have taken action, and I don’t know exactly what they would have done.”
Among the recommendations the task force has made to officials is a ban on fishing juvenile female crabs. It is already illegal to possess female crabs bearing eggs. A monthlong closure has been proposed from Feb. 15 through March 18. Crabbers say the closure would not be drastic because two weeks within that period are already closed to allow for the retrieval of derelict crab traps.
Louisiana stock assessments were delayed for nearly six years as multiple agencies completed studies to determine the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Of the assessments released in September, crab gave the only indication of a population problem.
The 2015 estimates of population suggest “the stock is currently in an overfished condition.”
Blue crab, the report says, experienced overfishing in 1995-96 and in 2013.
“We have to take care of it before it takes care of us,” Luke said of the overfishing issue.