Proposed Regulation Would Increase Minimum Size of Soft Crabs in - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Proposed Regulation Would Increase Minimum Size of Soft Crabs in Maryland

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 CAMBRIDGE, Md.- A proposed regulation in Maryland would increase the minimum size of soft shell crabs, or peelers, that watermen are allowed to catch and keep.  The goal is to provide smaller crabs with more time to molt to maturity, mate and spawn.  Watermen are concerned this small change could cost big bucks.

The way the peeler season works now is in two phases.  Your minimum size from April 1 through July 15 is 3 1/4 inches, after that it goes up to 3 1/2 inches.  This proposed regulation would make the minimum size 3 1/2 for the entire season for recreational and commercial crabbers.
    
It's hard to imagine due to the cold, but summer and the crabbing season are right around the corner.  With that comes the rush at the beginning of the season for soft crabs.

It's the busiest time of year for peelers, and it's also when crabs are the smallest.  Josh Parker, owner of TL Morris seafood, says increasing the minimum size will hurt business.

"When the guys are scraping for peelers around here, most of those crabs are 3 1/4 inches or lower, so they're working with a thin line there, it might not even be worth them going at all," said Parker.

The Department of Natural Resources says the benefits though are more spawning, or reproducing, crabs, and higher prices on larger crabs in the long run.

However, watermen are concerned about this line from the document: "It is not possible to determine how great of a positive impact this will achieve for the industry."  Well, the watermen and seafood buyers say they know just how negative it would be.

"I would imagine it would be 15,000 dollars.  Some of those guys catch a lot of peelers on a daily basis that are in that size range," said Parker.

Cody Paul says the bulk of the impact will be on the lower shore, areas like Deal Island and Crisfield.

"People that rely on shedding soft crabs and peelers are really going to be affected because they make their livelihood off of it," said Paul.

The good news for those opposed though, the regulation, if approved would be in effect for this year.

The DNR's fisheries service will make the call whether or not to implement this by March 30.  While the document says the larger crab sizes that will come out of this will be more valuable, Parker says those crabs are actually less valuable once their shells harden.

The proposed regulation can be found here.

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