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Mitigating by-catch of diamondback terrapins in crab pots

December 2, 2011

Chronic by‐catch of diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) in blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) pots is a concern for terrapin conservation along the United States Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. Despite the availability of by‐catch reduction devices (BRDs) for crab pots, adoption of BRDs has not been mandated and by‐catch of terrapins continues. We conducted experimental fishing studies in North Carolina's year‐round blue crab fishery from 2000 to 2004 to evaluate the ability of various BRDs to reduce terrapin by‐catch without a concomitant reduction in the catch of blue crabs. In 4,822 crab pot days fished, we recorded only 21 terrapin captures. Estimated capture rates were 0.003 terrapins/pot per day in hard crab experimental fishing and 0.008 terrapins/pot per day in peeler experimental fishing. All terrapin captures occurred from April to mid‐May within 321.4 m of the shoreline. Longer soak times produced more dead terrapins, with 4 live and 4 dead during hard crab experimental fishing and 11 live and 2 dead during peeler experimental fishing. The 4.0‐cm BRDs in fall and 4.5‐cm and 5.0‐cm BRDs in spring reduced the catch of legal‐sized male hard crabs by 26.6%, 21.2%, and 5.7%, respectively. Only the 5.0‐cm BRDs did not significantly affect the catch of legal‐sized hard male crabs. However, BRDs had no measurable effect on catch of target crabs in the peeler crab fishery. Our results identify 3 complementary and economically feasible tools for blue crab fishery managers to exclude terrapins from commercially fished crab pots in North Carolina: 1) gear modifications (e.g., BRDs); 2) distance‐to‐shore restrictions; and 3) time‐of‐year regulations. These measures combined could provide a reduction in terrapin by‐catch of up to 95% without a significant reduction in target crab catch.

Publication Year 2011
Title Mitigating by-catch of diamondback terrapins in crab pots
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.49
Authors Kristen M. Hart, Larry B. Crowder
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70003906
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southeast Ecological Science Center