Keeping tabs on crab

Puget Sound crab catch record cards are due now — and they’re more important than you might think.

Catch record cards for the summer crabbing season in Puget Sound must be submitted by Oct. 1, 2021. (Photo by Stuart Allen)

Labor Day marked the end of a sunny summer crabbing season in Puget Sound, but before you put your pots away for the year or begin planning your trips for the winter season, there’s one more piece of housekeeping every crabber must do: Submit your Puget Sound catch record card (CRC).

Since 2007, the Puget Sound recreational crab fishery has used catch record cards to help shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) estimate the number of Dungeness crab caught and retained in the salty waters of the Sound. Managers use this information to help determine catch quotas and develop harvest plans for the various marine areas of Puget Sound.

Catch record cards for the summer season can be submitted now, and must be submitted by Oct. 1 for any crabbing that occurred between the season opener in July to when it closed on Sept. 6. You must report your catch even if you didn’t catch any crab.

Crabbers can submit CRCs either virtually by logging in to WDFW’s online licensing system, or by mailing their physical copy to the address listed on the card. If you fail to submit your CRC, you must pay a $10 fee before purchasing another Puget Sound crab endorsement as part of your license.

But even more significantly, when you fail to submit your CRC, you could actually be harming future crabbing prospects for yourself and anyone who fishes for crab in Puget Sound, according to Katelyn Bosley, lead Puget Sound crustacean biologist with WDFW.

“Even though Washington state law requires crabbers to submit CRCs, only about half of all CRC holders report their catch at the end of each season,” Bosley said. “With more than 220,000 Puget Sound crab license holders, that’s a huge number of people who aren’t reporting their catch in a timely manner, which has a significant impact when determining quotas.”

Faced with that lack of data, managers have to extrapolate and use estimates to fill in the gaps in reporting, Bosley said. And by necessity, managers must use the most conservative estimates in order to prevent overharvest and ensure the recreational fishery is crabbing sustainably.

“We know many people receive their CRC at the beginning of the season, maybe crab once early in the summer or don’t go crabbing at all, and they simply forget to submit their CRC later in the year,” Bosley said. “Some may even think WDFW will use this information to restrict future crabbing seasons, but we work hard to offer as much opportunity as possible while staying within our conservation goals, and these CRCs help us do that in a big way by allowing us to produce more precise harvest estimates.”

Learn more about the Puget Sound crab CRC program at our website. If you have questions about submitting your crab CRC, contact our licensing division at 360–902–2464.

Any crab harvested Sept. 7 through Dec. 31 must be recorded on a winter CRC; winter CRCs are available for free at any license dealer in the state if you have a current Puget Sound crab endorsement. Be sure to visit our website for information about crabbing seasons and areas.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.