Cooperative Data Collection Program

The Cooperative Data Collection Program was designed in 2002 to characterize the size, sex and life stage of commercially harvested blue crabs. The program has two components: 1) Commercial crabbers who sample their own catch and 2) Biologist observers who ride-along with commercial crabbers to sample their catch.

Participation is voluntary, but commercial crabbers are admitted into the program so as to provide maximal coverage of the diverse regions and gears utilized in the commercial fishery. The key is to have a sample that is reflective of the fishery and provides information on the temporal and spatial patterns of the harvest.

The commercial crabbing season begins on April 1 and ends on December 15 annually. Data is collected weekly by commercial crabbers and monthly by biologists for the duration of the crabbing season, or for as long as program participants are actively crabbing.

In 2019, there were 24 commercial crabbers participating in the program. Commercial crabbers and biologists sampled 323 commercial crabbing trips in 14 different bay regions and tributaries and measured 48,070 blue crabs. Blue crabs encountered ranged in size from 30 millimeters to 236 millimeters. Legal size male blue crabs accounted for 44% of the catch from crab pots and 50% of the catch from trotlines in 2019.