Blue crab closed seasons approved to aid cleanups

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
approved a rule on Thursday, Feb. 5, that will establish six
regional closed seasons to the harvest of blue crabs with traps. 
These closures will extend for a period of up to 10 days each to
help efforts to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab
traps from Florida waters.

Lost and abandoned blue crab traps have been cited as a problem
in the blue crab fishery because they sometimes interfere with
other fishing activities and can continue to trap crabs and fish
when they are not maintained.  They can also be unsightly in the
marine environment, damage sensitive habitats and pose navigational
hazards to boaters.

It is illegal to tamper with properly licensed and maintained
blue crab traps, and lost and abandoned traps cannot easily be
distinguished from legal traps, so they often remain in the water
indefinitely.  Regional closures to blue crab trap harvest of up to
10 days will allow authorized groups to collect lost and abandoned
blue crab traps that remain in the water during the closed
periods.

The new rule prohibits the harvest of blue crabs with traps in
all waters of the St. Johns River system from Jan. 16-25, all other
coastal waters from the Georgia/Florida state line south through
Volusia County from Aug. 20-29, all waters of Brevard through Palm
Beach counties from Aug. 10-19, all waters of Broward through Pasco
counties from July 10-19, all waters of Hernando through Wakulla
counties from July 20-29, and all waters of Franklin County to the
Florida/Alabama state line from Jan. 5-14.

Except for the St. Johns River system closure, all of the
proposed blue crab trap harvest closures will extend from the
shoreline out to 3 nautical miles and include all inland waters in
the regions. An existing Sept. 20-Oct. 4 blue crab trap closed
season in the Gulf of Mexico from 3 to 9 miles offshore will remain
in effect.

The closures will apply only to standard blue crab traps.  The
harvest of blue crabs by other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up
traps, will still be permitted during the closures.  The closures
will also apply to recreational harvesters who use standard blue
crab traps unless the traps are attached to private property.

This rule takes effect on July 1.

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