The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a series of rule amendments Thursday to modify certain blue crab regulations. The most significant of these rule changes provides that six annual 10-day regional blue crab trap harvest closures in Florida will now occur every other year.
In 2009, the FWC established the annual, regional closures to all harvest of blue crabs with traps to help identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from Florida waters. The FWC now believes that staggering these closures every other year will help focus trap cleanup efforts in each region and lessen the economic impact of the closures on individual crabbers.
The January closures in the St. Johns River system and in Franklin through Escambia counties will take place as scheduled in 2011. Thereafter, the St. Johns closure will occur in even-numbered years and the Franklin-Escambia closure will occur in odd-numbered years. In addition, the August closures in Nassau through Palm Beach counties will take place in even-numbered years, and the July closures in Broward through Wakulla counties will occur in odd-numbered years.
Other new rule amendments change the blue crab license endorsement transfer window from September through December to May through February to increase opportunities for crabbers to transfer their endorsements to someone else and allow initial blue crab trap tags to be ordered at any time.
The new rules also will allow qualified blue crab harvesters to designate another of their own vessels to be used to temporarily pull blue crab traps while their regular vessel is repaired or replaced and clarify that soft shell blue crab harvesters may hold only two soft shell endorsements at one time.
The new rules take effect on Jan. 26, 2011.