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The use of bait bags to reduce the need for horseshoe crab as bait in the Virginia whelk fishery
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    "The preferred and most effective bait in the Virginia whelk trap fishery is the horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemis). Virginia fishermen alone used 1.4-1.5 million crabs in 2000 for bait in the whelk fishery. Leading producing states of horseshoe crabs for bait established harvesting quotas for crabs due to concerns of a declining population, which limited the number of crabs available for the whelk fishery. Measures were taken to reduce the fisheries' reliance on horseshoe crabs, which included the testing of bait holding devices which could potentially reduce the amount of horseshoe crab used per trap. A bait holding device (bait bag) constructed of rigid, plastic aquaculture mesh was tested in the Virginia commercial whelk pot fishery. The hypothesis was that if scavenger animals and trapped whelk could be kept from consuming bait placed in bait bags, then less bait would be needed. Horseshoe crabs were cut into halves, thirds and quarters (treatment groups), representing reduction of one-half, one-third and one-quarter of the traditional bait usage (control treatment). Three hundred and forty six treatment traps, and 341 control traps were tested. No significant differences (P > 0.05) were observed in the number of whelk caught per pot using half the amount of bait traditionally used. Bait reductions of thirds and quarters demonstrated an overall significant (P < 0.05) loss of catch, however, in areas of low whelk densities catch was more equal to whole crab(s). The results suggest that less horseshoe crab bait could be used in the Virginia whelk trap fishery without a significant loss in catch, but overall catch declines with bait reductions below one half"--National Sea Grant Library publication website.
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