NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The state of Louisiana is planning to ban the taking of female crabs for two months next year in an effort to bolster declining crab numbers. The move comes on the heels of an outright ban earlier this year.
If you love Louisiana crabs, it's getting harder and harder to indulge. Crab landings are down and crab prices continue to rise, in part because of a depleted resource.
"Across the state we have problems with wetlands loss, and that's critical habitat," said Pete Gerica with the Louisiana Crab Task Force.
A look at the numbers shows the decline in blue crab landings in Louisiana. In 2015, Louisiana crabbers caught 41.2 million pounds. That was down from 43.3 million pounds caught in 2014, and 20 percent lower than 2006, when 53.3 million pounds were taken - an all time high.
"When they started doing the runs, they saw decreases, and then they hit the point where they said man we've got to do something," said Gerica.
In February, the state imposed a one-month ban on the taking of all crabs. Now, the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission has given preliminary approval to a ban on the taking of female crabs for two months, beginning in March of next year. But female crab lovers aren't happy.
"Unfortunately, I like the yellow fat...and there's more of it," said Terrie Rangel of New Orleans.
While some people say they welcome controls to keep crab populations where they should be, they wonder if there weren't some other measures that should have been considered.
"Years ago, the most anyone fished was 350 traps. Now you're looking at 800 traps for the average fisherman," said Gerica.
But the state has resisted efforts to set trap limits, setting in motion the decision to outlaw the taking of all female crabs in three months.
"If it's a two-month deal, I think it's worth a try to see if it does anything," said Rangel.
And that's the goal: to keep crab populations manageable and avoid the type of crab fishery collapses other regions have experienced.
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries voted to approve the two-month ban on the taking of female crabs last month. They were approving a similar recommendation made by the crab task force. The department is now taking public comment on that decision until the end of this month.