New England Fishery Management Council approves red crab fishery totals

Published on
September 24, 2019

The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) decided on new specifications for the Atlantic deep-sea red crab fishery a recent meeting on 24 September.

The council, which is meeting from 23 through 26 September, has increased the total allowable landings of the fishery by 12.7 percent for the next four fishing years. The proposed catch for the years 2020 to 2023 will now by 2,000 metric tons (MT), an increase of 225 MT over the 1,775 MT that the fishery has used for the last three specification cycles, according to a release from the NEFMC.   

The deep-sea red crab catch was decided once every three years, but at the same 24 September meeting, the council decided to change that to a four-year schedule after a new assessment schedule was adopted by the Northeast Region Coordinating Council. Currently, scientific information about the stock is considered poor, with the maximum sustainable yield, overfishing limit, optimum yield, and more all undetermined, according to the NEFMC. The increase in quota was based on a recommendation from the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee. 

The last peer-reviewed assessment of the crabs was done in 2008, but fishery-dependent data indicates the fishery is robust enough to support the catch increase.

Only male red crabs are landed, and recent market demand has been “high,” according to the NEFMC. Fishing is conducted in deeper water on Georges Banks, off of Southern New England. Currently, only four active limited access vessels operate in the fishery. Roughly 1,300 vessels hold open access permits to land up to 500 pounds of red crab, but less than 10 have taken advantage of the access. The price-per pound, adjusted for inflation, was USD 0.93 (EUR 0.85) between 2009 and 2018. 

Photo courtesy of Atlantic Red Crab Company

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