Ecosystem Considerations – TX Blue Crab

Habitat Impacts, Bycatch, and Discards

Habitat Impacts

Crab traps, the dominant gear used by the commercial fishery, are a relatively selective gear and are considered to have low impact on the environment due to static placement and use on low-sensitivity mud bottoms and oyster reefs (Guillory et al. 2001). Texas conducts an Abandoned Trap Removal Program annually to reduce habitat impacts of lost or abandoned traps (Derelict Trap Task Force 2008).

Bycatch and Discards

DSC_7643Crab traps do not experience high bycatch mortality and allow for live catch with minimal waste. Stone crab, sheepshead, Gulf toadfish, black drum, southern flounder, hardhead catfish, red drum, and pinfish are some of the more common bycatch species found in traps (Derelict Trap Task Force 2008). Stone crab may be utilized for its claw and then returned to the water alive (see Appendix A for stone crab claw regulations). Blue crab fishermen in Texas are allowed to retain legal-sized incidental catch within recreational limits for each species, and finfish species are typically either utilized or still alive when released (Morris 2003). Studies in Louisiana and Mississippi found bycatch rates and mor­tality to be too low to present risk to the populations of bycatch species (Bourgeois, Marx, and Semon 2014), Graham et. al. 2012)

Traps are relatively size-selective and target a limited size range due to the diameter of trap funnels. Commercial fishermen cannot retain crabs smaller than five-inch carapace width (2014-2015 Commercial Fishing Guide). TPWD requires a minimum of two escape vents in each crab retaining cham­ber that are at least 2-3/8 inches in diameter. A degradable panel is also required in crab traps to re­duce bycatch of sublegal crabs and non-target species in lost or abandoned gear (31 T.A.C. §57.973 Devices, Means, and Methods, 2014-2015 Commercial Fishing Guide).


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