Robert T Brown Sr., Senator Hershey, Delegate JacobsJune 2019

The 2019 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey reported an increase of crabs is in the Chesapeake Bay.  This was primarily due to low death rate from warmer water and reproduction. The Blue Crab Industry Advisory Committee met Wednesday May 22nd and recommended that the mature female crab harvest be modestly increased this season, which will end November 30. (The male crab season will end December 15).  A final publication of bushel limit modification across all months will soon be made available.  Crabs have shown up in the lower eastern side of the Bay, many under sized. Elsewhere crabbing is very slow.

Rockfish was a hot topic at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) spring meeting.  The commercial harvest had 10% mortality; 8% harvest and 2% dead discards.  The Recreational harvest had 42% harvest with a 48% death discard— this is not acceptable!  At the spring meeting the Technical Committee (TC) was tasked to make recommendations on how to bring the Recreational harvest back to the target.  However, the TC came back with a recommendation of 17% reduction in harvest for both commercial and recreational fisheries.  In the meeting the proxy for Governor Hogan, Russell Dize voiced his concern that the TC had not done what was tasked by the Board back in February.  When the commissioners were told of 42% harvest and a 48% mortality rate in the recreational fisheries everyone was appalled. They wanted to take action then; however, they decided to let the TC come up with recommendations to solve this issue.  There was no mention about the Commercial fisheries.  A motion was made was to apply needed reductions to recreational sectors only and it passed. However, the TC came back with recommendation to apply needed reductions equally to both commercial and recreational sector.  We have already taken a 20.5% reduction on rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay that supposed to be for three years, and is now going into its fifth year.  The commercial industry does not need to be penalized for the recreational fisheries sector.

The TC has now been tasked to develop the following options to reduce the fishing mortality back to target:

  • Minimum fish size for the coast and a minimum fish size for Chesapeake Bay.
  • Slot limit that would prohibit harvest of fish over 40 inches.
  • Mandatory use of circle hooks when fishing with bait coast wide to reduce discard mortality.
  • A provision that states could use seasonal closures in conservation equivalency proposals.
  • Apply needed reductions equally to both commercial and recreational sectors.
  • Apply needed reductions to the recreational sector only.

All of the above options will be discussed at the upcoming August meeting of the ASMFC.  It is of the upmost urgency that watermen need to attend and be represented to save our quota!

The salinity in the Bay is still low for this time of the year and makes it very difficult to produce larvae.  To date no contracts have been awarded for spat on shell. Until the salinity stabilizes at higher levels, no wild seed will be available. Our oyster industry is in a crisis.  We need dry weather, so we can possibly have an oyster strike in the lower Bay.

The blue catfish have shown up all over the Bay due to the record rainfall that has caused this low salinity.  Even the crab potters are catching them in their pots.

Update for gill netters: under regulation the DNR has the authority to issue the use of monofilaments net next season.  The regulations will soon be available.

Our annual clay shoot was cancelled due to rain and we are looking at a possible shoot this fall.  We will keep you posted.

SeaGlass Wines is running a fundraiser with us again this year. From April 1 through August 30, they will donate $1 per case sold to the MWA. If you would like to have a free wine tasting in your area contact us at the MWA (410) 216-6610 or call Victoria at (202) 580-9377.

The annual East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s and Aquaculture Trade Expo will be held in Ocean City, Maryland on January 18, 19 and 20, 2020.  It’s never too soon to start planning in advance.  We have already started contracts with the vendors and working on seminar sessions for Saturday with Don Webster.  There will be more information as we get closure to the event.

Stay safe in your travels!

Top photograph courtesy of Jay Fleming

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