Bay Shore resident works to protect spider crabs

DEC signage only mentions blue-claw crabs

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For the last 10 years, Bay Shore resident George Mowbray has walked along the Bay Shore Marina, picking up trash and helping the wildlife. Mowbray has a pushcart that he fills with supplies and a bucket that he uses to keep the marina looking spotless, and comes down almost every day for multiple hours.

Since taking on this mission of keeping the marina pristine, Mowbray has become dedicated to helping spider crabs. Spider crabs are relatively small crabs with a hard shell that they cover with debris to hide themselves from predators. Fishermen often accidently catch spider crabs in traps or on lines. Unfortunately, according to Mowbray, many of them either kill the unwanted crabs or bury them in the sand to die.

Mowbray acknowledged that in recent years, the problem has slowed down. He used to see approximately 50 to a 100 dead or abandoned spider crabs a day and now only finds a few a week. He noted that one day, he found 37 in one garbage can alone.

A few years ago, the Town of Islip put in signs asking visitors at the marina to not hurt the spider crabs, but over the years the signs have faded and weathered. According to they Parks and Recreation team, they are currently in the process of addressing this, said an Islip Town spokesperson. The Department of Environmental Conservation has signs up at the marina regarding blue-claw crabs. The signs provide guidance on the legal size and bag limit for blue crabs. They are the most common crab species targeted by recreational crabbers in New York. Mowbray said he would love to see that same type of strict signage applied to spider crabs as well.

New York Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) requires that any fish or crustacea (crabs) unintentionally taken contrary to the ECL shall be returned to the water immediately, without unnecessary injury. All native species, including those not directly utilized by people, such as spider crabs, play a role in healthy ecosystems. DEC urges anglers and crabbers to be mindful of regulations before going fishing and encourages only harvesting legal fish and crabs that are intended to be eaten.

The DEC said that they are considering additional signage alongside other alternative forms of outreach and education to further increase public awareness of proper handling and release of fish and crabs, such as spider crabs, dogfish, sea robins and others, that are caught and not intended to be kept and consumed by recreational anglers and crabbers.

For more information on crabbing in New York, visit https://bit.ly/nycrabs.

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