VMRC decides against opening winter crab dredge season

by Bill Nachman - Posted on Oct 23, 2013 - 02:37 PM

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted unanimously Tuesday against a proposal to reopen the blue crab winter dredge fishery.

In voting against reopening the fishery in a limited, tightly controlled program that would not have increased the overall crab harvest, commission spokesman John Bull said VMRC cited low stock abundance, an anemic 2013 crab harvest, and opposition from commercial crab potters and the public.

If blue crab stock abundance levels improve in the future, Bull said, the commission indicated it would reconsider reopening the winter dredge fishery.

Bull said that even if the commission had passed the blue crab matter during a meeting Tuesday at its headquarters in Newport News, the number of dredgers would have been limited to fewer than 50.

Approximately a dozen people spoke during a public hearing Tuesday, with some supporting the reopening and others opposed. Chris Moore of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was among those speaking in opposition to the plan, Bull said, while Ken Smith of the Virginia Waterman’s Association was among the plan’s proponents.

"The timing is wrong" to reopen the winter dredge fishery, Associate Commissioner Ken Neill said. "I just don’t think this is a good year for this."

However, Associate Commissioner Ed Tankard said that "I can see us in the future having a crab dredge fishery, but abundance is too low now."