Video>> Gulf Coast blue crab declines a concern

BILOXI, Mississippi — In the cool early-morning air, Frank Parker jumps into his skiff off the Kuhn Street Pier with an ice chest full of bait and 26 years of commercial shrimp and crab fishing experience under his belt. He says there are ups and downs in this business, but lately he’s just trying to catch enough to pay the bills.

“Shrimping has been kind of slow,” Parker said. “Crabbing has been awful.”

The abundance of blue crab is declining in both Mississippi and Alabama and has been for years, according to data collected by state fishery-monitoring agencies.

In 2012, the abundance of blue crab in each state dropped 62 percent from 10 years earlier, according to samples taken by the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Blue crab populations can fluctuate widely from year-to-year, so Parker said it’s difficult to determine why blue crab landings, or catches, have dropped off. But he said crabbers from Louisiana to Florida are complaining of the worst landings in decades and no one really seems to know why.

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