November 27, 2008

Virginia freezes crab licenses

Virginia says it plans to refuse crab license renewals for 800 fishermen who did not catch any crabs between 2004 and 2007.

The watermen would be unable to renew their licenses from 2009 through at least 2012, The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reports. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission approved the freeze late Tuesday.

The state wants to prevent a rapid return of fishing for blue crabs in Chesapeake Bay if the species makes a comeback. Frozen licenses could only be renewed if crab numbers have been at sustainable levels for at least three years after 2009.

Experts estimate that there are now 120 million juvenile crabs in Maryland and Virginia waters in Chesapeake Bay. The state puts the sustainable level at 200 million juveniles.

The governors of the two states cut the harvest of female crabs by 34 percent this year. Virginia has imposed other conservation measures, including closing the winter dredge season for the first time.