Friday, July 13, 2007

Chinese Mitten Crab

Public urged to report Chinese mitten crabs
The Chinese Mitten Crab

Live Chinese Mitten Crabs (Eriocheir sinensis) have been caught in crab pots in Chesapeake Bay (2005-2007) and Delaware Bay (May 2007). These are the first confirmed reports for the eastern United States. To date, there have been seven crabs documented, and five have been in the past two weeks.

“We don’t yet know whether the crab has established reproductive populations in these estuaries or spread to other locations along the eastern U.S.,” said a marine official.

The Chinese Mitten Crab is native to East Asia, and is a potential invasive that could have negative ecological impacts. Mitten crabs are already established invaders in Europe and on the West Coast of the United States. The crab is listed as injurious wildlife under the Federal Lacey Act, which makes it illegal in the United States to import, export, or conduct interstate commerce of mitten crabs without a permit.

The Chinese Mitten Crab occurs in both freshwater and saltwater. It is catadromous, migrating from freshwater rivers and tributaries to reproduce in saltwater. Young crabs spend 2-5 years in freshwater tributaries and can extend miles upstream of bays and estuaries. Mature male and female crabs migrate downstream to mate and spawn in saltwater estuaries. Chinese mitten crabs burrow into banks and levees along estuaries and are able to leave the water to walk around obstacles while migrating.

To determine the status, abundance, and distribution of this species along the eastern U.S., a Mitten Crab Network has been established. The network began as a partnership among several state, federal, and research organizations, with an initial focus on Chesapeake and Delaware bays. The network is now being expanded to include resources managers, commercial fishermen, research organizations, and citizens along the eastern U.S.

Citizens are asked to help by reporting any mitten crabs to the Network or to a state resource manager.

The mitten crab has claws equal in size with white tips and hair; carapace up to 4 inches wide; light brown to olive green in color; no swimming legs; and has eight sharp-tipped walking legs.

If you catch a mitten crab: do not throw it back alive; freeze the animal, keep it on ice, or preserve it in rubbing alcohol as a last resort; note the precise location and date where the animal was found; please take a close-up photo of the animal, and email to for preliminary identification (include contact information); and if you cannot take a photo, contact the Mitten Crab Hotline (443-482-2222).

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Bill Limiting Pa. Farm Owners' Liability for Hunting Accidents On Gov.'s Desk

Bill Limiting Pa. Farm Owners' Liability for Hunting Accidents On Gov.'s Desk

July 5, 2007

A bill limiting Pennsylvania farmers' liability for hunting accidents on their properties has flown through the House and Senate and been sent to Gov. Edward Rendell for signing.


The measure was backed by Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, which sought to strengthen an existing law that provides liability protection for farmers and other landowners who allow hunters on their land.

House Bill 13 would amend the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act (RULWA) of 1965 by increasing protection for landowners from liability for injury or property damage caused by hunters that occurs off the landowner's property.

The law already provides landowners liability protection for actions that occur on their property as a result of recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, swimming and hiking.

But farmers sought to clarify the law in the wake of a 2006 court case in which the owner of a Lehigh County orchard was found partially liable for damages for a situation where a stray bullet fired by a hunter traveled about a half-mile before accidentally striking a woman sitting in a car on a different property.

PFB argued that many farmers would choose to limit or exclude hunters from their property if they could not re not sure of protection from liability.

"Pennsylvania farmers need assurances that they will not put their property and livelihood at risk when they allow hunters on their land. This bill should ease their concern," said PFB President Carl T. Shaffer.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission soon will begin collecting carcasses of several elusive species _ cobia, spadefish, sheepshead, red and black

July 2, 2007 - 11:22am

Associated Press Writer

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Next time you slice up your favorite saltwater fish, consider donating its carcass to science.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission soon will begin collecting carcasses of several elusive species _ cobia, spadefish, sheepshead, red and black drum, tilefish and grouper _ from recreational fishermen to study the health of the fish populations.

Since 1998, the commission has collected length, weight, sex and age information from more than a dozen species in the Chesapeake Bay. The majority of the samples come from the commercial fishing industry, but some of the species aren't popular commercial catches, so the commission is turning to recreational fishermen to fill the gaps.

"Instead of going out and catching live ones ourselves, we can get much of the data that we need from the remnants of what's already caught," VMRC spokesman John Bull said.

Scientists must remove a fish's otolith, an ear bone that contains growth rings similar to rings in the trunks of trees, to determine its age. Hundreds of samples are needed each year for researchers to get an accurate reflection of the population.

"Why go and kill new fish to do the studies when we can learn the stuff from the dead fish?" Bull said. "That leaves more fish out there for other people to catch."

Bull called the project a "normal, routine, health-of-the-species population assessment" and said scientists have no reason to believe any of the targeted species are in serious danger.

Researchers are interested in how long the fish are living, how big they're growing and other details such as the ratio of females to males to determine what that might mean for the viability of the species.

The project targets fish that are most difficult to catch. Species such as flounder and striped bass are prevalent in the Chesapeake Bay, but the targeted fish either don't flock to the bay in large numbers or don't bite as well, Bull said.

Last year, 26,000 cobia were recorded caught by recreational fishermen, and all but about 8,000 were released, Bull said. In contrast, recreational fishermen caught more than 67,000 striped bass during a four-week season last year in Maryland alone.

A project set up last year to collect sheepshead carcasses produced only 174 donations, said Hank Liao, a scientist at Old Dominion University's Center for Quantitative Fisheries Ecology. VMRC funds the center's Growth and Age Lab where last year Liao and another full-time scientist examined about 6,000 fish in 2006.

Liao said anywhere from 200 to 1,000 fish carcasses are needed to get a proper scientific sample, depending on the species. Some like striped bass live longer, so more samples are needed to get an accurate reflection of the population. Others like spotted seatrout have very short lifespans and only about 250 are required for study.

Cobia remain one of the most elusive. Last year, scientists had only 30 samples to study, Liao said.

"Each year we have to put a specific effort to go to a cobia tournament to collect fish from recreational fishermen," Liao said. "We never get enough."

But organizers of the Marine Sportfish Collection Project are hoping anglers will come to them.

Recreational fishermen will be able to drop off carcasses _ head and tail intact _ in freezers located at several bait shops spread out across the Chesapeake Bay area. They will receive a T-shirt in return.

Bull only hopes anglers will package the remains neatly.

"Hopefully they're not all just dumping their fish skeletons in a freezer and walking away," he said.

The project will continue indefinitely.

If you have fish to donate, you can take them to to the following bait and tackle shops: Wallace's Bait and Tackle in Hampton; Long Bay Pointe Marina in Virginia Beach; and Chris' Bait and Tackle in Capeville.