Golden Crab

Golden Crab

When the Council prohibited fish traps in the snapper grouper fishery in 1992, a few of the displaced trap fishermen began developing a specialized fishery for golden crabs.  Harvesting of this little known species required fortitude and ingenuity in developing gear modifications to trap the deepwater crabs.  The Nielsen family of Dania, Florida was instrumental in developing harvesting techniques and creating a market for golden crab, encouraging other fishermen to join the fishery.  As the fishery began to grow, these same fishermen who had been displaced earlier by the Council from their snapper grouper trap fishery, showed a

remarkable good faith effort by approaching the Council with their own plan proposal for the golden crab fishery.  This plan included measures to protect the stock, as well as a limited entry program to protect them from large vessels entering the fishery from outside the area.

The Council worked cooperatively with the fishermen to provide a sustainable fishery opportunity by developing a management plan that would eventually limit the number of fishermen in established fishing zones (southern, middle and northern) as well as implement the protective measures for the crabs as outlined by the fishermen themselves.  Management has been so effective that the Council is in the process of adding more vessels to the northern zone.  The Golden Crab Fishery Management Plan represents an excellent example of co-management between fishermen and the Council.

History of Management – Golden Crab


Fishery Management Plan / Amendments

Fishery Management Plan for the Golden Crab Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (1995)
Set up a management program for the golden crab fishery in the South Atlantic EEZ; Established a limited entry system and divided the fishery into three zones; Required escape gaps with degradable panels in crab traps; Prohibited sale of female crabs and limited retention of female crabs to 0.5% by number; Required that crabs be landed whole.
Notice of Availability   Proposed Rule   Final Rule
Framework Seasonal Adjustment #1 (1997)
Revised the vessel size limitations applicable when a vessel permit is transferred to another vessel and extended through December 31, 2000, the authorization to use wire cable for a mainline attached to a golden crab trap.


Amendment 1 (1998)
Identified Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) for Golden Crab.


Amendment 2 (1998)
Amended the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) as required to make definitions of MSY, OY, overfishing and overfished consistent with "National Standard Guidelines"; identified and defined fishing communities and addressed bycatch management measures.


Amendment 3 (2000)
Extended the authorization to use wire cable for mainlines attached to golden crab traps to December, 31, 2002; modified escape panel sizes for traps; addressed permit renewal requirements including removal of the 5,000 pound harvest requirement for renewing biannual permits and addressed the minimum harvest requirement for permit holders in the Southern Zone; allowed up to a 20% increase in vessel size from the vessel size of the original permit; created a sub-zone within the Southern Zone with specified conditions; allowed two new vessels to be permitted to fish only in the Northern Zone using an earlier list of those wanting to enter the fishery; Specified Status Determination Criteria; and modified the FMP framework to allow modifications to the sub-zone.
Notice of Availability   Proposed Rule   Final Rule


Amendment 4 (2010)
The amendment was included under the Comprehensive Ecosystem-Based Amendment 1 (CE-BA 1) . Actions in this amendment will protect specific areas of sensitive habitat, deemed Coral Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (CHAPCs) that house an invaluable array of deepwater coral species living in waters ranging from 400 meters (1200 ft.) to 700 meters (2300 ft.) deep. The South Atlantic region is home to what may be the largest contiguous distribution of deepwater corals in the world, including the common Lophelia coral, largely responsible for reef mound construction in these cold water areas. The parameters defined within the amendment aim to shield these areas from impacts associated with bottom-tending fishing practices. For many years fishermen targeting golden crab and royal red shrimp have set their traps and hauled their nets in areas now known to provide suitable habitat for deepwater corals. These small traditional fisheries, however, operate in distinct areas where fishermen can be sure their gear will not become tangled and possibly damaged. Therefore, actions to create "Allowable Golden Crab Fishing Areas" and "Shrimp Fishery Access Areas" within two of the proposed CHAPCs are included to ensure the continued existence of these fisheries and the communities they support. The Council submitted CE-BA 1 for Secretarial review, approval and implementation. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on June 22, 2010 and the provisions within the amendment are effective July 22, 2010. See Fishery Bulletin for more information.
CE-BA 1 Appendices   Coral HAPC Map   Coral HAPC Map with Fishery Access Areas   Notice of Availability   Proposed Rule   Final Rule


Amendment 5 (2012)
The amendment was included under the Comprehensive Annual Catch Limit Amendment and was approved by the Secretary of Commerce in January 2012 and the measures effective on April 16, 2012.  The amendment meets the 2011 mandate deadline of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to establish Annual Catch Limits (ACLs) and Accountability Measures (AMs) for species managed by the Council that are not undergoing overfishing.  The amendment addresses a number of species in the snapper grouper management complex, as well as dolphin (mahi-mahi), wahoo, and golden crab.  In addition to establishing ACLs for dolphin, the amendment prohibits the sale of bag limit dolphin by fishermen with a federal For-Hire (charter) Permit. ACLs for other species, including king and Spanish mackerel, cobia, and spiny lobster are being addressed in separate amendments.
Comp ACL Appendices   Comp ACL SUMMARY   Proposed Rule (published Dec 1, 2011)   Amended Proposed Rule (published Dec 30, 2011)   Final Rule