(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association - November 1995 Newsletter)
I attended the last meeting of the New Jersey Division of Fish, Game and Wildlifes Blue Claw Crab Advisory Committee as a representative of the JCAA. As usual I was outnumbered 8 to 1 by commercial crabbers.
The only topic discussed at this meeting was the proposed mandatory use of turtle excluder rings on all crab pots that are placed within 25 feet of any shoreline in New Jersey waters. A few of the commercial crabbers present discussed the subject honestly, but expressed concerns for the possible effects this regulation would have on their traditional methods of operation. Unfortunately, several others wasted a considerable part of the meeting whining about state regulations and those "ecological whackos" who are trying to put them out of business.
The Division conducted an extended test on pots with turtle excluders for a period of 116 days over 2 seasons. They used 10 regular pots without excluders and 10 others that were fitted with the devices. The traps were fished alternately in areas known to contain turtles. A total of 22,981 crabs and 43 turtles were caught in this test. The pots without excluders caught 11,139 crabs and 40 turtles. The pots equipped with the excluders caught 11,842 crabs and only 3 turtles. The average size of the crabs caught in both types of traps was approximately the same.
The Division of Fish, Game & Wildlife will hold a public hearing on the turtle excluder proposal later this year or early in 1996, but the date has not yet been announced.
Jack Mitkus is the JCAA representative on the Blue Claw Crab Advisory Committee and is a member of the Manasquan Fishing Club. If you have any questions about blue claw crabs please contact Jack at 908-477-5184.