Florida Blue Crab Management

Management Structure


The Florida blue crab fishery, which is fished exclusively within Florida state territorial waters, is managed under Florida state legislature, and associated regulatory bodies, primarily the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The mission of FWC is to manage “fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of the people.” Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) is the research arm of FWC. FWRI research programs focus on providing scientific data on Florida natural resources to managers and to the general public (“Marine Fisheries Research” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission). Members of FWC, as well as members from the management agencies of the other four Gulf States, collaborate regularly through the GSMFC. GSMFC acts as an advisory agency providing management recommendations for each Gulf State, but has no regulatory authority. The charge of GSMFC is, “to promote better utilization of the fisheries, marine, shell and anadromous, of the seaboard of the Gulf of Mexico, by the development of a joint program for the promotion and protection of such fisheries and the prevention of the physical waste of the fisheries from any cause.”

Brief History of Management Changes

1941 – First blue-crab specific regulation, a 5 & ½ inch minimum carapace width and prohibition of possession of egg-bearing females between May 15 and August 15.

1947 – Removed closed season, so berried females could be harvested year-round.

1963 – Egg-bearing females cannot be taken in waters east of the Aucilla River.

1973 – Current state permits must be displayed, sale of egg-bearing females harvested in state waters prohibited, and there must be an escape gap in the trap.

1978 – Minimum size limit was reduced to 5 inch carapace width. No more than 10% of catch may be undersized unless authorized by a special permit for soft-shell crab or bait.

1985 – Start of the Marine Fisheries Information System (Trip Ticket). Trip Tickets obtained data on number of trips, pounds caught per trip, and number of traps per trip.

1994 – Blue crab became designated as a restricted species by the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission. The 10% tolerance for undersized crabs was repealed and possession and harvest of egg-bearing females was prohibited. A daily recreational bag limit of ten gallons of blue crabs was establish. There were additional changes to some of these regulations that allowed some retention of undersized crabs and mandated that three escape rings larger than 2&3/8 inch inside-diameter must be in each trap. Biodegradable trap components were enacted to prevent ‘ghost fishing’ by lost traps. Finally, a bycatch possession limit of 200 lbs of blue crabs per trip on shrimp trawls was allowed.

1995 – Changes in escape ring regulations due to development of peeler-trap fishery. Only blue crab traps with larger, 1& 1/2 inch mesh required escape rings and only live male crab could be used as ‘bait’ in peeler traps.

1998 – The use of blue crab traps cannot in federal waters became prohibited and a moratorium on issuing new blue crab endorsements from June 1998 to June 2007 was established.

2004 – Waters three to nine nautical miles offshore of the area north of the Suwannee River were closed to blue crab traps during September 20 -October 4 each year to eliminate take of stone crab in blue crab traps before opening of stone crab season.

2005 – Waters three to nine nautical miles offshore closed along all of the Gulf coast of Florida during September 20 – October 4 each year.

2008 – The Blue Crab Effort Management Plan (BCEMP) separated the blue crab endorsements by product type: hard shell (VH), soft shell (VS), non-transferable (VN) and incidental catch (VI) along with issuing tags for each trap fished based that was based on where and how the blue crab trap was fished (inshore, offshore, soft shell and hard shell). The BCEMP is structured so fishermen must annually re-qualify with landings in order to renew their endorsements.

2009 – Trap tag fees implemented.

Current Regulations

See Florida Rules and Regulations Chapter 64B-45

See FWC Commercial Saltwater Fishing Regulations Guide


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