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Atlantic Deep-Sea Red CrabAtlantic Deep-Sea Red Crab
(Chaceon quinquedens)

Atlantic Deep-Sea Red Crab

Implementing regulations are found at 50 CFR part 648 subpart M.

The Atlantic deep-sea red crab fishery in the U.S. operates along the edge of the continental shelf off southern New England and the Mid-Atlantic Bight.  Deep-sea red crab inhabit mud, sand, and hard bottom at depths from 200 to 1800+ meters, at water temperatures between 5-8° C.  The small, directed red crab fishery uses traps and targets male red crabs at a depth of approximately 400-600 meters.  The market for deep-sea red crab is for human consumption and is sold either as fresh picked meat or as frozen legs.  The red crab fishery was certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as sustainable in the fall of 2009. 

 

 

 

What are other common names for red crab fishery?  Deep-sea red crab, red crab

What time of year are red crab most commonly found?  Year-round; the average landings varies as a result of both seasonal catch rates and processing availability.  Landings are typically highest in summer and fall.

What is the geographic extent of red crab?  Deep-sea red crab occurs in a patchy distribution from Nova Scotia to Florida, primarily at depths of 400-1800 m along the continental shelf and slope.

At what depths are red crab found?  The red crab fishery takes place primarily between 400 m and 800 m along the continental shelf from Maine to North Carolina.

Are other species caught when fishing for red crab?  The red crab fishery has little interaction with non-targeted species and does not have significant levels of bycatch, if any.  Rare bycatch species include lobster and Jonah crab.

What gear types are authorized and what gears are primarily used?  The directed fishery is entirely a trap/pot fishery.

Who manages this fishery?  The New England Fishery Management Council manages the Red Crab Fishery Management Plan (FMP), and NMFS implements the regulations.

How is the fishery managed?  As of September 2011, the red crab fishery is managed with a total allowable landings (TAL) limit, within an annual catch limit and accountability measures framework.

What is the fishing year for this fishery?  March 1 – the end of February

What are the different management areas for the red crab fishery?  The Red Crab Management Unit is defined in § 648.2 as “an area of the Atlantic Ocean from 35° 15.3' N. Lat., the approximate latitude of Cape Hatteras Light, NC, northward to the U.S.-Canada border, extending eastward from the shore to the outer boundary of the exclusive economic zone and northward to the U.S.-Canada border.”

2000 – Industry requested Council to develop a limited access management plan due to concerns about the increased number of vessels targeting red crab

2001 – The Council requested, and NMFS implemented, emergency measures (Federal Register (FR) Notice) to prevent overfishing, while the Council developed a Fishery Management Plan (FMP).  The emergency measures were in effect from mid-2001 until late 2002, when they were replaced by the FMP.

2002 – The Council submitted the Atlantic Deep-Sea Red Crab FMP, which included limited access permit qualification criteria, a target total allowable catch (TAC) limit, trip limits, trap limits, a days-at-sea (DAS) system that equally distributes the DAS across the fleet, a prohibition on landing female red crab, and an annual specifications process.  NMFS implemented the final rule for the FMP on October 21, 2002 (FR Notice).

2005 Framework 1 (FR Notice) established a multi-year specifications process and continued the same target TAC (5.928 million lb) and DAS allocations (780 fleet DAS) as the previous years.  The final rule for Framework 1 published on August 1, 2005.

2007 - Amendment 1 (FR Notice) standardized bycatch reporting methodology

2008 – The Northeast Fisheries Science Center conducted a stock status review under the Data Poor Stocks Working Group, which recommended a reduced catch limit for the red crab fishery.

2009 – NMFS implemented emergency measures to address the Data Poor Stocks Working Group’s recommendations for reduced catch while the Council developed specifications for the 2010 fishing year.  The emergency measures reduced the target TAC to 3.56 million lb (from 5.928 million lb) and the fleet DAS allocation to 582 (from 780 fleet DAS).  The emergency rule published on March 6, 2009 (FR Notice), and on August 24, 2009 (FR Notice), was extended through the end of the fishing year.

2010 – The Council submitted specifications for the 2010 fishing year that were the same as those implemented in the emergency rule.  However, prior to the implementation of the final rule (FR Notice), the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee recommended an adjustment to Council’s recommended specifications.  NMFS did not have the regulatory authority to alter the specifications in the final rule, so the originally proposed specifications (3.56 million lb/582 fleet DAS) were implemented.  However, an in-season adjustment was implemented by the Regional Administrator at the request of the Council.  The in-season adjustment increased the target TAC to 3.91 million lb and the fleet DAS allocation to 665.  The in-season adjustment published on August 13, 2010 (FR Notice).

2011 – As required by the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Red Crab FMP was amended to include a mechanism for specifying annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs).  Amendment 3 to the Red Crab FMP (FR Notice) eliminated DAS and trip limits for the limited access red crab fleet.  The target TAC was changed to a “total allowable landings” or TAL by this rule.  Amendment 3 established a TAL of 3.91 million lb for the 2011-2013 fishing years.  Amendment 3 was published and effective on September 29, 2011.

2013 – Three-year specifications were recommended and implemented for 2014-2016 using the recommended status quo ABC equal to the long-term average landings of the directed red crab fishery for fishing years 2011-2013.  Due to the data poor nature of the fishery, the Council agreed with the  conclusion that historical landings of male red crab and historical discarding practices appear to be sustainable for the time being, and that an interim ABC based on long-term average landings is safely below an undetermined overfishing threshold and adequately accounts for scientific uncertainty.  The final rule for the 2014-2016 specifications published on April 30, 2014 (FR Notice), and maintained a TAL at the same levels already in effect under Amendment 3.

2015 – Amendment 4 (FR Notice) was a part of the Standard Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) Amendment for all Northeast Region fisheries that established standards of precision for bycatch estimation.

2017 – Three-year specifications were recommended for 2017-2019 and implemented for 2017 using the recommended status quo ABC equal to the long-term average landings of the directed red crab fishery for fishing years 2014-2016.  Due to the data poor nature of the fishery, the Council agreed with the  conclusion that historical landings of male red crab and historical discarding practices appear to be sustainable for the time being, and that an interim ABC based on long-term average landings is safely below an undetermined overfishing threshold and adequately accounts for scientific uncertainty.  The final rule for the 2017 specifications published on February 22, 2017 (FR Notice), and maintained a TAL at the same levels already in effect under Amendment 3.

What are the primary markets for the red crab fishery?  Picked and packaged crab meat and/or frozen crab legs for grocery stores

What are the recent landings and value of the fishery?  This information is not available for publication due to confidentiality reasons.

What are the top red crab landing ports?  New Bedford, MA

Stock Atlantic Deep-Sea Red Crab
Overfishing? Unknown
Overfishing Definition Undetermined
Overfished? Unknown
Overfished Definition Undetermined
Rebuilding Program No
F/FMSY Unknown
Fishing Mortality Rate Unknown
B/BMSY or B/BMSY Proxy Unknown
Biomass Unknown

Other Stock Status Information:  Very little is known about the life history and stock status of deep-sea red crab, but the New England Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) has recommended that the long-term average landings by the directed red crab fleet appears to be sustainable.  Even though the overfishing limit (OFL) is unknown, the SSC considers long-term average landings to be sufficiently below whatever that value is likely to be.  Unlike most fisheries, no reliable discard estimate could be determined for red crab.  Therefore, the acceptable biological catch, annual catch limit, and total allowable landings are currently all equal to the long-term average landings of 3.91 million lb of male crabs.

Most Recent Environmental Impact Statement:  Atlantic Deep-Sea Red Crab Fishery Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement

Most Recent Biological Opinion:  2002

Most Recent Stock Assessment:  2006 SAW 43; 2009 Data Poor-Working Group

Next Stock Assessment:  Unknown

Quota Monitoring – Confidential

Approved 2017 and Projected 2018-2019 Specifications for Red Crab

Stock Atlantic Deep-Sea Red Crab
Overfishing Limit (OFL) Unknown
Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) 3.91 million lb
Annual Catch Limit (ACL) 3.91 million lb
Annual Catch Target (ACT) Not Applicable
Total Allowable Landings (TAL) 3.91 million lb
Optimal Yield (OY) Unknown

Research Set-Aside:  Not Applicable

How often do the quotas change for this fishery?  There is a 3-year specifications cycle for this fishery.

What if specifications are not in place at the start of fishing year?  Existing specifications roll over.

Are there inseason adjustments (changes mid-fishing year) in this fishery?  Yes, when the TAL is projected to be harvested, the Regional Administrator will reduce the red crab possession limit to 500 lb, for all vessels including limited access vessels.

Accountability Measures:  If the TAL/ACL is exceeded, a pound-for-pound deduction will be taken from the next year’s ACL.

Other:  Not Applicable

Click Below for Past Quota Information:

2011-2013

2014-2016

Permit Categories

Permit Category Description Permits Issued in 2016 Number of Permits in Confirmation of Permit History*
Category A Open Access 1,350 Not Applicable
Category B Limited Access 4 0
Category C Limited Access 1 0

*A Confirmation of Permit History allows a vessel owner to retain permit eligibility in the event the vessel has been destroyed or sold but the owner retains the permit eligibility.  The permit in Confirmation of Permit History may then be placed on a vessel at a later date.

Control Date:  March 1, 2000

Other Permit Information:  Not Applicable

Commercial Operator Permit:  Operator cards are required for any operator of a charter/party boat or a commercial vessel (including carrier and processor vessels) issued a vessel permit from the Greater Atlantic Region and fishing for or in possession of fish.

Commercial Dealer/Processor Permit:  Red crab may be sold only to persons possessing a valid Federal red crab dealer permit. 

How to Obtain a Federal Fishing Permit:  Anyone with a valid vessel operator’s permit can obtain a Federal open access red crab permit by submitting a permit application and supporting documentation to the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office Permit Division. 

Limited access permits have been managed under a limited entry system since 2002; no new limited access permits are being issued.

More information can be found here.

Possession Limits and Fish Size Requirements

Possession Limits

Open access – 500 lb; Limited access – none

Fish Size Limits:  Not Applicable

Female Red Crab Restriction: No vessel may catch, possess, transport, land, sell, trade, or barter, female red crabs in excess of one standard tote (~100 lb) of incidentally caught female red crabs per trip.

Processing At-Sea Restriction:  No vessel may fully process red crab while at sea.

Mutilation Restrictions:  In addition, no vessel on a dedicated red crab trip may possess red crab claws and legs separate from red crab bodies, in excess of one standard tote (~100 lb).  Vessels fishing under the open access regulations (open access permitted vessels or limited access permitted vessels fishing for red crab incidentally) may not possess any red crab claws or legs separate from red crab bodies and may not possess more than two claws and eight legs per red crab body.

Gear Requirements

Red crab traps/pots (as defined in § 648.2) are “any structure or other device, other than a net or parlor trap/pot, that is placed, or designed to be placed, on the ocean bottom and is designed for, or is capable of, catching red crabs.”

Limited access red crab vessels may fish with or carry on board up to a total of 600 traps/pots when fishing for red crab.  Each trap may not be larger than 18 cubic feet, and they may be rectangular, trapezoidal, or conical only, unless otherwise allowed by the Regional Administrator.

No one may haul or remove lobster, red crab or fish from parlor traps/pots when fishing on a dedicated red crab trip. 

Compliance with other regulations:  Vessels must also comply with the gear regulations in the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan, found at 50 CFR 229.32.  In addition, red crab traps/pots, fished in 200 fathoms (365.8 m) or less by a vessel issued a limited access lobster permit, must comply with the lobster trap tagging requirements, found at 50 CFR 697.19.

Gear markings:  All buoys used at the end of each red crab trawl must have the letters “RC” painted on the top of each buoy.  The vessel's permit number must be painted on the side of each buoy to clearly identify the vessel.  In addition, the number of each trap trawl, relative to the total number of trawls used by the vessel (i.e. “3 of 6”) must be painted on the side of each buoy.  The letters and numbers must be at least 3 inches (7.62 cm) in height.  Each trap trawl is required to have high flyers and radar reflectors.

Regulated, Closed, and Access Areas

The only “regulated” area for the red crab fishery is the Red Crab Management Unit, which is defined in 50 CFR 648.2, as the area of the Atlantic Ocean from 35° 15.3' N. Lat., the approximate latitude of Cape Hatteras Light, NC, northward to the U.S.-Canada border, extending eastward from the shore to the outer boundary of the exclusive economic zone and northward to the U.S.- Canada border in which the United States exercises exclusive jurisdiction.

Days-At-Sea (DAS) Requirements

The red crab fishery is no longer managed by a DAS system.  Please see the ‘Quota’ and ‘Limits/Sizes’ section of this webpage for more information on effort control in the red crab fishery. 

Exempted Fisheries

What is an Exempted Fishery?

Exempted fisheries allow fishing vessels to fish for specific species without being subject to certain Northeast multispecies regulations, including days-at-sea, provided the bycatch of regulated species is minimal. To be approved and implemented, exemption programs must have demonstrated that incidental catch of NE multispecies is less than 5 percent of the total catch, by weight, and that the exemption will not jeopardize fishing mortality objectives.

How to Request Fishery Exemptions

An exempted fishery may be added, deleted, or modified pursuant to the procedure described below:

  1. Applicants must submit a written request to the Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930-2298. The request should describe the area in which the fishery would operate, the period in which it would operate, the gear it would use, the approximate number of vessels likely to participate, and the species it would target, retain, and land.
  2. Those proposing that a fishery should be exempt should describe the fishery and present all information possible that helps determine that the fishery meets the bycatch standard. The Regional Administrator will investigate NMFS data sources, but proposals for exemptions should be complete and clear to facilitate the process. State agencies and universities, for example, may have additional data available and applicants may contact them for assistance.
  3. When a request for an exempted fishery is submitted, the request and any accompanying data are reviewed by the Regional Administrator to determine whether such a fishery would meet the exemption qualifying criteria. The Regional Administrator will also consult with the New England Fishery Management Council on any exemptions requested. This process may take several months to complete.

Red Crab Fishery Exemptions

There are no exempted fisheries for the red crab fishery.

Protected Resource and Marine Mammal Regulations

All Federal red crab vessels are subject to the gear restrictions in the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan found at 50 CFR 229.32.  Marine mammal regulations set forth specific requirements for the ropes used in pot trawls to reduce the danger to the marine mammals from entanglement.

There are currently no recreational possession restrictions for red crab caught in Federal waters.  Recreational anglers must still comply with minimum fish size regulations.  Minimum size limits and general information on all recreational fisheries in our region can be found here.

Recreational anglers will need to get a general recreational fishing license either through your state or through us to fish recreationally for marine species.  More information can be found here.  General information on all recreational fishing in our region can be found here.

Catch Reporting and Vessel Trip Reports (VTR):  VTRs must be submitted with record of all fishing activity for each month.  The reports must be submitted to NMFS or postmarked within 15 days after the end of the reporting month.  Reports can also be submitted electronically here.  If no fishing activity took place during a fishing month, then a VTR must be submitted stating that no fishing trips were taken.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System Requirements:  The red crab fishery does not have any IVR requirements. 

Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) Requirements:  The red crab fishery does not have any VMS requirements.

Observer Requirements:  The red crab fishery does not have any specific observer requirements, however all federally permitted vessels are obligated to carry an observer if randomly selected by the National Observer Program.

Catch Reporting and Vessel Trip Reports (VTR):  VTRs must be submitted with record of all fishing activity for each month.  The reports must be submitted to NMFS or postmarked within 15 days after the end of the reporting month.  Reports can also be submitted electronically here.  If no fishing activity took place during a fishing month, then a VTR must be submitted stating that no fishing trips were taken.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System Requirements:  The red crab fishery does not have any IVR requirements. 

Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) Requirements:  The red crab fishery does not have any VMS requirements.

Observer Requirements:  The red crab fishery does not have any specific observer requirements, however all federally permitted vessels are obligated to carry an observer if randomly selected by the National Observer Program.