Tuesday October 30 grant ceremony

For immediate release
Contact: Tony Novak, 856-237-9199

CRAB INDUSTRY REVITALIZATION GRANT CEREMONY TUESDAY OCT. 30

Baysave is pleased to announce that a grant ceremony will be held Tuesday October 30, 2018, 11:00 at Money Island, New Jersey to present a check from New Jersey Community Capital THRIVE grant. The grant is focused on revitalizing the local blue claw crab industry. The press release from the donor is posted here.

Money Island, located on the bayshore in Cumberland County, is New Jersey’s second most productive seafood landing port. The tiny working waterfront community is struggling for survival under government-imposed costs in the midst of ongoing regional economic depression. Climate-related events, including massive costs from superstorm Sandy recovery, further hurt the recovery of the local seafood industry.

The Delaware Bay blue claw crab population is healthy yet about half of the 312 commercial crab licenses issued by the State of New Jersey are underutilized. Many licensed crabbers are not happy with current economic opportunities so they stay off the water. Baysave proposed establishing a shared use physical facility for the landing, storage and processing of crabs by independent harvesters as well as helping to organize a watermen’s cooperative to improve the marketing and business operations of crabbers to increase their bottom line.

The majority of the grant award will be used for state permitting costs. While the local industry has been in operation for more than seven decades, none of the docks or supporting infrastructure, have ever been permitted by authorities. “New Jersey has a ‘one size fits all’ fee schedule for land use permitting that works well in the northern part of the state but has been impossible for the economically deprived bayshore region. The permitting costs exceed the land value here. Only now are some of the region’s largest seafood companies beginning to tackle this expensive legal requirement” says Tony Novak, CPA Controller for Baysave.  By having a fully permitted crab landing and storage facility for smaller independent crabbers, Novak expects that more investment will then be available for crab processing, marketing and distribution systems to boost income for the local industry. Baysave has already announced plans to offer financing of equipment for crabbers who want to expand their production and hopes to offer vessel financing soon.

Novak notes that this grant is only 1/6 of the amount of funding needed to transform the waterfront community to a sustainable operation but is a welcome positive first step that, he hopes, will draw other investors to the opportunities in regional seafood industry expansion.

“We are grateful for the efforts of Cumberland County Economic Development Director Kim Ayers and the help of Jeff Kaszerman New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants for working with us to find this opportunity”.

Baysave is a 501(c)(3) association registered as a New Jersey charity. The mission is to connect government, educational, nonprofit and industry resources to support sustainable aquaculture.

Blue claw crab research

Yesterday I interviewed Dr. Paul Jivoff, a professor at Rider University, by telephone to learn more about topics at the intersection of science and business of blue claw crabs. Dr. Jivoff is a local expert in blue claw crabs and we’ve communicated several times over the past few years, including our meeting with the Rider Development Office last year about the possibility of a research site at Money Island.

The big picture goal is to ensure that our business plans are aligned with the available science and, to the extent possible, consider the possibility of future biological impacts on the industry.

This is an annotated abstract from one of Dr. Jivoff’s papers that overviews the life cycle of blue claw crabs:

“Blue crabs are considered estuarine residents with all life history stages, except for the larval stages, occurring in estuarine waters. Adult females release larvae into the water column near the mouths of estuaries (Millikin and Williams, 1980). Larvae are carried offshore where at least 30 days are required to go through seven zoeal stages (Millikin and Williams, 1980; Epifanio, 2007). As a result, blue crab larvae represent one trophic link between estuarine and oceanic food webs. The final plank-tonic stage (megalopa) returns to the estuary, via wind-driven currents and tides (Epifanio, 2007), where they metamorphose to form the first juvenile stage (<5 mm carapace width) and become benthic. These juveniles grow rapidly, molting on average every 3–4 weeks depending on water temperature (Smith and Chang, 2007), making them important prey for a variety of fish and birds, but they are also important predators on other small invertebrates (Lipcius et al., 2007). Therefore, young juveniles (<20 mm carapace width) occupy shallow, structured habitats that also contain food sources including seagrass beds, macroalgae, and oyster reefs (Lipcius et al., 2007). During the 12–18 months required to reach sexual maturity (at 90–100 mm carapace width), habitat use expands based on size and density-dependent factors (Hines, 2007; Lipcius et al., 2007). Smaller juveniles (20–30 mm carapace width) move to alternative nursery habitats including marsh creeks and marsh-fringed mud flats (Lipcius et al., 2007). Larger juveniles (>20 mm carapace width) begin venturing into unstructured habitats and, as they grow, inhabit deeper areas where they continue to be important predators but are prey to fewer organisms (Hines, 2007). Unlike females that exhibit a final molt to reach maturity, adult males grow throughout their lives (reaching sizes of >200 mm carapace width), molting every 30–40 days depending on temperature, and they typically return to more protective habitats during molting, as they are particularly vulnerable to predators. As a result of ontogenetic shifts in habitat as well as movement into lower salinity areas, blue crabs can be found in a wide array of habitats, throughout the estuarine-to-ocean salinity gradient (e.g., 5–35 ppt) (Hines, 2007; Lipcius et al., 2007). Because they represent both predator (contrary to popular belief, they are not scavengers) and prey in these habitats, blue crabs are a critical component of the estuarine food web both within and between estuarine habitats. Blue crabs have been an important food item for humans since the early 1700s and have supported a commercial and recreational fishery since the 1800s (Kennedy et al., 2007). As a result, blue crabs are part of the historic, economic, and social fabric of communities along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Blue crabs are consumed as “hard crabs” (crabs with a hard carapace, typically in the intermolt stage) and as “soft crabs” (crabs with a soft carapace as a result of recent molting) (Kennedy et al., 2007). The predominant fishing techniques vary with the season and with the sex of the harvested crabs. During the warmer seasons (late spring-late fall), blue crabs are typically harvested with a trap or “pot,” and the catch is predominantly males. During the winter, particularly in the mid-Atlantic region, blue crabs are harvested by a dredge, and the catch is predominantly females.” (Jivoff, P.R.. (2016). Blue crabs. Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series. 109-110. 10.1007/978-94-017-8801-4_4.)

We discussed industry practices that might support a larger crab population; specifically that we will not support winter dredging of crabs. Also, we opened discussion on the possibility that Money Island might be a good location for future crab research.

Blue claw crab facts

compiled by Tony Novak, originally published February 24, 2015

Much of the blue claw crab life cycle research commonly cited about blue claw crabs was conducted in the 1940s and 1950s in the Chesapeake Bay region. There is some published contradicting information. Few studies have followed the changes occurring, if any, on crab life cycle variance over time. This list is meant as a compilation of generally accepted published data.

Female crabs typically mate once in their lifetime.

Sexual maturity is reached 1 to 1 1/2 years after post-larval molts.

After mating, the crabs survive the winter by burrowing into the mud before spawning (laying eggs).

Burrowing occurs in deeper, warmer waters near the mouth of the bay.

Spawning occurs 2 months to 9 months after mating.

Each female produces millions of fertilized eggs.

Crabs spawn in higher salinity waters near the ocean.

Juvenile crabs migrate into shallower, less-saline waters farther up the bay.

Male crabs may remain in lower salinity water farther up the bay waters to feed.

Male crab movements are not directional but may depend more on currents and tidal flow.

Most larval, infantile and juvenile crabs are consumed as food by other species.

Crab larvae feed mostly on plankton.

Juvenile crabs feed on invertebrates in the benthos zone (worms, shrimp living in the mud) as well as some plant material.

Adult crabs prefer to eat clams and oysters and have the ability to find buried clams and open their shells. Cannibalized molting crabs are a significant portion of their diet.

Crabs molt up to 20 times in their life span.

Molting is energy dependent and does not occur in winter.

Refrigerating a molting crab stops its shell from hardening (for human consumption of soft shell crabs).

Molting happens more frequently in small crabs and less frequently in larger crabs.

The maximum age for most blue crabs in the mid-Atlantic region is three years.

Adults crabs live an average of less than one year after reaching maturity.

Maximum size is about 9 inches from point to point.

In the fall when temperatures drop below 50°F adult crabs leave shallow, inshore waters and seek deeper areas where they borrow into the bottom and throughout the winter.

Temperature above 93 degrees is lethal.

Tolerance range is pH 6-8 and less than 6 is lethal.

Salinity requirement varies with life cycle.

The State of New Jersey issues this safety advisory for crabs caught in the Newark Bay.

New Jersey’s Professor Paul Jivoff in the biology department at Rider University is a leading authority on blue claw crabs.