Conservation concern could curtail crab catch

  • Jun. 11, 2003 5:00 p.m.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it will be meeting with Old Massett Village Council to discuss concerns about recreational crab catching on the islands.
“There has been a request from the Old Massett Village Council to close that recreational crab fishery because they feel there is a conservation concern,” said David Einarson, Fisheries and Oceans Canada area chief of resource management. “We don’t feel that there’s that great a concern, but we’re willing to find out more about what their concerns are.”
Most of the recreational crab harvesting on the islands takes place at North Beach and Agate Beach, where people can wade straight into the surf at low tide and catch crabs with nets, or even their bare hands. Crab catchers must have a licence, and are limited to four Dungeness a day, which must be at least 165 mm wide.
Some people may be concerned because many crabs caught are “coupled” or stuck together, Mr. Einarson said, and people believe they are mating. However, he said, crabs don’t mate in the shallow waters where people tend to catch them because it’s far too turbulent.
“They’re not really mating when they’re coupled like that,” he said.
Although Fisheries doesn’t keep track of how many crabs are caught by recreational fishers, Mr. Einarson said it’s not significant when compared to the commercial Dungeness crab fishery, which he described as “intense”.
Crab populations around the islands appear to be stable, Mr. Einarson. They fluctuate somewhat from year to year, and indications at the moment are that there are plenty. The amount of Dungeness harvested around the Charlottes in the past eight years has varied between 900 metric tonnes and 3,400 metric tonnes, he said.
Fisheries and Oceans considers the size of the crabs caught in the recreational fishery more important than the actual number caught, Mr. Einarson said. The crabs spawn before they reach the 165 mm legal size, so as long as fishers observe that limit, then the crabs that are caught should have already spawned.
“The size limit is very important to us,” he said. “That’s our management strategy for those crabs.”
Fisheries also takes special precautions with the commercial crab fishery in the McIntyre Bay area, Mr. Einarson said. Commercial crabbers are not allowed put any more than half their total number of traps in McIntyre Bay, the body of water off the north end of Graham Island between Masset and Rose Spit.
“It’s a popular place, and we don’t want to scoop it out,” he explained.