Jonah crabs, once dismissed as lobster bycatch, booming in value as managers seek fishery plan

IndustriesAssociated Press

Fishing regulators are working on a management plan for Jonah crabs, a species that is growing in market share as an economic alternative to Dungeness and stone crabs.

New England lobstermen often catch Jonah crabs as bycatch. Regulators say an interstate plan would regulate issues such as minimum size.

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Jonah crab catch increased sixfold from 2000 to 2013, with fishermen catching nearly 7,000 metric tons two years ago. They've also increased more than 700 percent in value and were worth nearly $13 million in 2013.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island fishermen are leading the Jonah crab surge. Federal data say those states accounted for nearly 95 percent of Jonah crabs caught in 2013. Fishermen in Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut landed more than 50,000 pounds of Jonah crabs in each state that year.