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Virginia Watermen Call For Changes In How Blue Crab Population Is Managed

The Virginia Blue Crab Industry Panel wants state regulators to move away from daily limits and seasonal restrictions on crabbing.
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The Virginia Blue Crab Industry Panel wants state regulators to move away from daily limits and seasonal restrictions on crabbing.

A group of commercial watermen is calling on the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to radically change the way it manages the state's Blue Crab population.

The Virginia Blue Crab Industry Panel wants state regulators to move away from daily limits and seasonal restrictions on crabbing, and create a pilot program that would experiment with annual limits instead.

"Say you get 2,000 bushels. We give you 2,000 tags. You've got to tag your 2,000 bushels and when you run out of tags, you're out of the fishery until next year," explains Ken Smith, president of the Virginia Watermen's Association.

Smith says this would allow watermen to make more money by letting them fish whenever profit margins are greatest — while still meeting conservation goals.

"You can't continually put 'em out of business, and make it so they don't make money, when there's a way out there that they can make money and we can have a sustainable fishery too," says Smith.

A spokesperson for the state's marine resource commission says some of the panel's proposals have merit, but cannot be implemented without coordination from Maryland and other bay states.

The spokesperson also says the proposals may not be appropriate for the many different types of crabbing and crab habitats across Virginia waters.

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