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Sponge crab ban extended
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BRUNSWICK — The Department of Natural Resources has extended the current ban on harvesting sponge (egg-bearing) blue crabs.
The extension is effective July 1 and affects both recreational and commercial harvest within the saltwaters of the state. Commissioner Noel Holcomb made this decision based on a recommendation from the Coastal Resources Division. Gov. Perdue and the Georgia General Assembly approved a law change during the 2008 legislative session to give the DNR more flexibility to manage blue crabs. This flexibility will allow the department to meet the goals of the Georgia Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan while considering input from commercial and recreational fishermen.
The harvest of sponge crabs was originally prohibited in 2002 in response to a record decline in the blue crab population following a record drought. The prohibition was extended in 2005 but was scheduled to end at midnight on June 30.
This administrative order will remain in effect until such time as the Georgia blue crab population reaches a level where a limited harvest of sponge crabs would be allowable. Currently, blue crab resources as measured by DNR surveys are still below the long-term average and well below the level where a harvest of sponge crabs would be prudent.
Sponge crabs have very little value as seafood due primarily to the size of the egg mass and the fact females are putting all their energy into egg production rather than growth. Between 1989 and 2002, sponge crabs accounted for less than 2 percent of Georgia's reported commercial harvest. Few, if any, recreational harvesters choose to keep sponge crabs.
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