Ecosystem Considerations – Species of Concern- TX Blue Crab

Species of Concern

DBT_Maritime Aquarium and Norwalk

Diamondback terrapin

Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) share some habitat with blue crabs, and concerns have been raised by environmental groups over incidental catch and mortality of terrapins in blue crab traps. In Texas, diamondback terrapin is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need, and 31 TAC §65.82 makes it illegal to knowingly take or possess a diamondback terrapin  (2015-2015 Outdoor Annual). Only two terrapins were documented as bycatch in the 2002 Abandoned Trap Remov­al Program (Morris 2003), ), and since then, research into potential solutions for terrapin bycatch has continued (Baxter 2013, Baxter 2014). Currently, Terrapin Excluder Devices are not required in traps, but industry in Texas has been encouraged to utilize them voluntarily as part of cooperative research project. A representative of TPWD sits on the committee for the Texas Diamondback Terrapin Working Group to discuss fishery interactions with terrapins. Additionally, the Crab Subcommittee of the GSMFC Technical Coordinating Committee has begun to work with the Gulf Coast Region Diamond­back Terrapin Working Group to discuss concerns about terrapin bycatch on a regional scale.

whooping craneWhooping crane

The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge located in Aransas, Texas, is a significant winter breeding area for the whooping crane (Grus americana), which has been federally listed as endangered since 1967. Because whooping cranes rely on blue crab as a primary food source, concerns have been raised by environmentalists regarding mortality of overwintering whooping cranes due to declining blue crab populations. Studies have been conducted on declining blue crab resources in Aransas Bay as a result of reduced freshwater inflow and the relationship of blue crab scarcity to whooping crane mor­tality (Pugesek, Baldwin, and Stehn 2008). Crabbing has been prohibited in the Refuge since 2009 to reduce pressure on blue crab populations in the Aransas area (2014-2015 Commercial Fishing Guide). Multiple projects now address freshwater inflow issues to examine both decreasing blue crab populations and the cranes reliant on them (The Aransas Project).

Marine mammals

NOAA’s Office of Protected Resources considers the Gulf of Mexico blue crab fishery as a Category III (remote likelihood/no known) threat based on the level of interaction with marine mammals (NOAA Office of Protected Resources).


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