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Group Proposes New Regulations and Emergency Protective Measures for Jonah Crabs

May 12, 2014

A New England collaborative will propose new regulations and emergency protective measures for Jonah crab this Wednesday at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) meeting in Washington, D.C.

“Landings of Jonah crab have more than quadrupled over the last 20 years, but we still lack a management plan that would monitor the species and create limits to protect it from overfishing,” said Jen Levin, seafood program manager at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. “We are helping to facilitate an industry-led effort to sustainably manage this resource and safeguard the long-term health of the fishery.”

The working group – consisting of New England fishermen, scientists, retailers, regulators, and processors – will propose this week that the ASMFC incorporate Jonah crab into the management plan that governs the lobster fishery. The recommendations also include reporting requirements, minimum catch size, and an emergency ban on harvesting females.

Jonah crab has long been considered a bycatch of the lobster industry, but fast-growing market demand has increased the targeted fishing pressure on the species in recent years. In 2012, about 11.5 million pounds of Jonah crab were landed in the United States in 2012, with a total pre-processed value of more than $8 million, according to National Ocean Economics Program data.

“The Jonah crab fishery is an important source of income for local fishermen and seafood processors,” said David Spencer, commercial fisherman, F/V Nathanial Lee. “We want to be sure that we are putting measures in place that will allow us to harvest this valuable resource today and long into the future.”