Blue Crab

Did You Know It Is Illegal to Catch a Blue Crab in Maine & Massachusetts?

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Yes, that is correct. I guess you can’t fix stupid. Blue crabs are invasive in Massachusetts, and with the rapidly warming waters, they are marching further north year after year, competing with the iconic Maine lobster in the Gulf of Maine. Just a few weeks ago, a record 7 1/2-inch male blue crab was caught in a lobster pot in Maine. A 7 1/4-inch monster was recently caught in Moriches Bay in Long Island Sound, New York. Blue crabs are raiding clam beds and oyster farms all over New England waters, decimating entire crops of shellfish. Logic would dictate that one possible solution is to commercially catch and sell them, just like their neighboring states down south. But, incredibly, right now it is illegal to catch blue crabs in both states.

The population of lobsters off the coast of Maine is declining rapidly. In 2016, Maine lobstermen harvested a record 132 million pounds of live lobster. The 2023 Maine lobster harvest total is looking like it will end up around 80 million pounds this year, a 39% drop from the 2016 high.
The Gulf of Maine is heating up faster than any other body of water on Earth, and that is forcing lobsters to go further offshore and further north to find cooler water. The amount of baby lobsters found on the ocean floor (this is called the “settlement rate”) is dropping dramatically also.

Along with climate change comes the northerly migration of invasive species like the blue crab and black seabass into the Gulf of Maine. The blue crabs compete directly for food with the Maine lobster. Black seabass and the wild striped bass are voracious predators of baby lobsters.

If these trends continue unabated for the next couple of decades, lobsters in the Gulf of Maine may go the way of lobsters in Long Island Sound. In the late 1990s, Long Island Sound supported a 5,000,000-pound-a-year lobster harvest, and today it is zero.