Restrictions on the amount and kinds of crabs caught by offshore fishing boats will come into force today as part of efforts to ensure the sustainable fishing of the oceanic crabs along Taiwan’s coast, the Fisheries Agency announced yesterday.
The new regulations will be applied year-round and prohibit fishing vessels from catching crucifix swimming crabs and redspot swimming crabs.
They also limit the trapping of Pacific blue swimming crabs to those with a shell narrower than 8cm, while stipulating that no swimming crabs or crimson crabs with shells less than 6cm thick may be caught.
The five varieties of the crustacean are the main species of crab caught in Taiwan.
Boats are now also prohibited from catching female crabs carrying fertilized eggs under their abdomens between Aug. 16 and Nov. 15, according to the new rules.
Any banned crab caught by mistake must be released immediately, regardless of whether it is still alive, the agency said, adding that under no circumstances are illegally caught crabs to be brought into a harbor.
While fishing vessels with bottom gill nets normally select their catch after returning to harbor, they are still required to release any prohibited bycatch crab back into the ocean within 12 hours or face a fine between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000.
The agency said the rules have been devised to help enable smaller crabs — which have a correspondingly lower economic value — to grow to bigger sizes.
Because the meat of undersized crabs tends to be of an undesirable texture, allowing the crustaceans to grow to larger sizes will have only a minor impact on the price of crab meat, but a potentially significant effect on maintaining the quality and sustainability of this fishery resource, it added.
The agency said that the crabs along the nation’s coastline live mainly in sand and mud in shallow, offshore areas.
During harvesting season, which falls between September and November, most crabs are caught through trawling, gill netting or with crab pots, it added.
Starting today, the agency will make surprise inspections at harbors in conjunction with local coast guard, fishermen’s associations and other related officials to ensure that the new regulations are proving effective in ensuring sustainable crab fishery.