Maine rule changes encourage green crab harvest

There’s a great big target on the backs of predator green crabs now, thanks to rule changes by the Maine Department of Marine Resources that went into effect this week.
 
As of Aug. 10, commercial fishermen no longer need a special license to harvest and sell green crabs and don’t have to report their green crab harvests to the state. Lobstermen will now be allowed to take them as bycatch. And when the Sheepscot, Damariscotta and Medomak rivers are closed for fishing other species of crabs between Dec. 1 and April 30, fishermen will still be able to harvest green crabs from those waters.
 
Public and private efforts are underway to rid Maine’s coastal waters of the invasive species, which preys on the state’s valuable shellfish population and wreaks havoc on eel grass. Although the crustaceans, which can be anywhere from 2.5 to 5 inches long, have been reported in Maine for more than a century, scientists speculate that warming ocean temperatures have allowed the crabs to multiply.
 
The crabs feast on bivalves such as softshell clams, which are Maine’s third most lucrative fishery. In 2013, 10.6 million pounds of softshell clams were valued at $16.9 million. But that was down from 11.1 million landed in 2012, according to the DMR, a decline partly attributable to damage from green crabs.
 
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