Assessing Northeast Florida Offshore Blue Crab Fishing Effort within Florida’s State Waters
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Assessing Northeast Florida Offshore Blue Crab Fishing Effort within Florida’s State Waters

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  • Journal Title:
    North American Journal of Fisheries Management
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    During the winter months, commercial fishery effort targeting blue crabs Callinectes sapidus increases in the offshore Atlantic waters of northeast Florida as crabbers follow the seasonal migration of female blue crabs. The present study sought to describe offshore commercial fisher behavior through a mail survey (2020) and to characterize fishing effort using landings data (from 2009–2010 to 2019–2020) and an aerial survey from January to March (2021). Offshore fisher effort (i.e., number of participants and landings) varied each winter, and the effort was greatest in the winters of 2011–2012 and 2018–2019. The number of participants that reported offshore landings ranged from 6 to 11. Offshore landings accounted for 2.6% of the total landings in northeast Florida and were correlated with a decrease in inshore landings. The mail and aerial surveys determined that crab traps were concentrated off two sections of the coast within 1.61 km (1 mi) of shore: (1) from Vilano Beach to south of Ponte Vedra Beach and (2) between Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach. Participants in the mail survey reported fishing a median of 150 traps (range = 50–400 traps), while aerial counts estimated an average ± SD of 59.5 ± 5.4 traps/crabber. Average trap counts from the aerial survey during the winter of 2020–2021 suggested that 9.33 km (5.8 mi) of vertical line were used within the survey area. This study successfully characterized the northeast Florida offshore blue crab fishery as a small but valuable fishery for a few crabbers, with effort driven by seasonal demand and crab availability.
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    North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 42(3), 668-683
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