2023 journal article
Timing and route of migration of mature female blue crabs in a large, wind-driven estuary
TRANSACTIONS OF THE AMERICAN FISHERIES SOCIETY, 152(2), 253–269.
Abstract Objective Quantify the timing of mature female blue crab Callinectes sapidus migration and the routes they take in the Croatan, Albemarle, and Pamlico Estuarine System (CAPES) in North Carolina, USA. Methods Mark–recapture data collected by commercial crabbers in northeastern North Carolina during 2008 and 2009 identified the timing, rate, and route of movement for 1049 postcopulatory female blue crabs out of 8400 tagged (17.5% recapture). Result Mature female blue crabs consistently moved from their original, up‐estuary release sites towards the Oregon Inlet spawning sanctuary in early summer. Although crabs averaged 2 km/d and covered distances in excess of 50 km during the tagging season, no recaptures were reported from inside or within 10 km of inlet spawning sanctuaries connecting the CAPES to the Atlantic Ocean. The vast majority of recaptures were concentrated within the area where Albemarle, Currituck, and Croatan sounds merge, which is likely due to a combination of high fishing effort and the narrowing of the waterways that concentrate mature females as they migrate south towards spawning sanctuaries. Conclusion The high concentration of blue crab recaptures in this region suggests that extending no‐take, inlet sanctuary boundaries into these waters may protect mature females as they migrate to the inlet spawning grounds.