An evaluation of the effects of blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) behavior on the efficacy of crab pots as a tool for estimating population abundance


Sturdivant, S. Kersey, and Kelton L. Clark
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Crab traps have been used extensively in studies on the population dynamics of blue crabs to provide estimates of catch per unit of effort; however, these estimates have been determined without adequate consideration of escape rates. We examined the ability of the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) to escape crab pots and the possibility that intraspecif ic crab interactions have an effect on catch rates. Approximately 85% of crabs that entered a pot escaped, and 83% of crabs escaped from the bait chamber (kitchen). Blue crabs exhibited few aggressive behavioral interactions in and around the crab pot and were documented to move freely in and out of the pot. Both the mean number and size of crabs caught were significantly smaller at deeper depths. Results from this study show that current estimates of catch per unit of effort may be biased given the high escape rate of blue crabs documented in this study. The results of this paper provide a mechanistic view of trap efficacy, and reveal crab behavior in and around commercial crab pots.