NRP Launches “Don’t Get Pinched” Campaign to Catch Illegal Crabbers
The Maryland Natural Resources Police today rolled out its newest education and enforcement campaign ─ “Don’t Get Pinched” ─ to help protect the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population.
“Our slogan, ‘Don’t Get Pinched,’ is a lighthearted way of reminding people to play by the rules while crabbing because rest assured, we will do everything in our power to catch violators,” said Col George F. Johnson IV, NRP superintendent.
The campaign takes aim at those who ignore State regulations on minimum sizes, possession limits, harvest hours and crab pot registrations. Officers also will be on the lookout for recreational crabbers who keep female crabs, which is illegal in Maryland.
“We will use every enforcement tool available to us, including saturation patrols, undercover operations, night vision equipment, and the cameras and radar units of the Maritime Law Enforcement Information Network,” said Johnson.
The reason for the effort is based in science, explained Lynn Fegley, DNR Fisheries deputy director.
In 2013, the crab population experienced very poor reproduction – very few young crabs arrived in the Bay that year. These crabs grew to adults during the summer of 2013 and were then subjected to the severe cold of last winter, which caused the death of between 20 percent and 30 percent of adult crabs in Maryland.
“It was a double whammy,” Fegley said.
The 2014 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey results showed the abundance of spawning-age females at 69 million, just below the minimum safe level of 70 million. The density of harvestable crabs, male crabs greater than 5 inches and females that could potentially spawn declined in 2014.
As a result, regulators in Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River are collaborating to provide additional protection for the female crabs, Fegley said.
Johnson said that with temperatures rising in the Chesapeake Bay and coastal bays and crabbing activities reaching their peak, now is the time to know and follow the rules.
“Nothing symbolizes Maryland more than the blue crab. I’ve lived here all my life and no one enjoys a crab feast more than I do,” Johnson said. “But unless we do our part to protect them, that part of our summer tradition could be in jeopardy.”