Industry Collaboration Ensures Long-term Sustainability for the Jonah Crab Fishery

Perspectives | May 31, 2015

by Kyle Foley

Sustainable Seafood Senior Program Manager

A gray bin is filled with water and dozens of brown Jonah Crabs.

The bevy of popular crustaceans available to east coast seafood consumers can make it easy to overlook Jonah crab. But this important local fishery has grown rapidly over the course of the last 15 years. Since the early 2000s, landings have shot up from roughly 2.6 million pounds to 17 million pounds, with a current value exceeding $12 million.

Despite this increase in landings, the fishery lacked harvest-control measures. Concerned Jonah crab dealers and commercial fishermen identified this risk early on. In response, GMRI facilitated a three-year collaboration among industry leaders, fishery managers, and scientists, who all hoped to ensure the future sustainability of this fishery.

Their combined efforts resulted in a new proactive management plan for this important local fishery. Together, they implemented a fishery improvement project (FIP), which identified management measures that would prevent over-harvest of Jonah crab. These measures included size limits, protection of females, and requirements for licensing and trap limits.

In August of 2015, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted unanimously to implement a fishery management plan for Jonah crab. The new plan included all recommendations of the FIP work group. The new measures are now in effect along the entire East coast, as of June 1, 2016.

“Protecting the resource is an important part of our business,” said Cape Seafood’s Bryan Holden. “Without long-term sustainable harvest of the Jonah crab resource, our business’ ability to buy and sell product is threatened.”

GMRI facilitated the FIP work group, which included Bristol Seafood, Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association, Delhaize America, Rhode Island Lobstermen’s Association, M.F. Foley Company, Cape Seafood LLC, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, commercial fisherman David Spencer, ASMFC member Steve Train, Rick Wahle with the University of Maine, and The Atlantic Red Crab Company.

“This is a terrific example of industry collaboration,” said Josanna Busby with Delhaize America. “We are proud to have been a part of a successful collaboration among seafood processors, commercial fishermen, management entities, and scientists.”

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