Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 28.2. Fisheries and Habitat of the Tidal Waters
Subtitle II. Tidal Fisheries
Chapter 7. Crabs
5/29/2024

Chapter 7. Crabs.

Article 1. General Provisions.

§ 28.2-700. Definitions.

As used in this chapter, unless the context requires a different meaning:

"Crab dredge" means a device, which may have teeth on the bar, that is designed and used to catch crabs buried in the bottom.

"Crab pot" means a device made of wire or thread net used to catch crabs.

"Peeler crab", until the Commission promulgates a different definition, means a crab that has a soft shell fully developed under the hard shell, or a crab on which there is a pink or white line or rim on the edge of that part of the back fin next to the outer section of this fin.

"Peeler pot" means a wire mesh pot baited with only live adult male (jimmy) blue crabs.

Code 1950, §§ 28-170, 28-173; 1954, c. 368; 1956, c. 293; 1960, c. 517; 1962, c. 406, §§ 28.1-165, 28.1-169; 1964, c. 393; 1966, c. 684; 1968, c. 785; 1970, c. 726; 1979, c. 274; 1983, cc. 307, 603, § 28.1-165.1; 1985, c. 180; 1990, c. 154; 1992, c. 836; 1995, c. 129; 1996, c. 229.

§ 28.2-701. Crab traps, crab pots and crab pounds; regulations; penalty.

A. The Commission shall promulgate regulations governing the use, placement, and maintenance of crab traps and crab pounds.

B. The Commission may promulgate regulations establishing the mesh size of crab pots and peeler pots. The regulation may provide for the interchangeable use of the two types of pots, provided that each respective gear is appropriately marked and cull rings in conformance with Commission requirements are installed in each pot.

C. Any person convicted of violating any provision of a regulation promulgated under this section is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

1990, c. 446, § 28.1-173.3; 1992, c. 836; 1999, c. 550.

Article 2. Licenses.

§ 28.2-702. Licenses to take crabs; shedding operations; amount of fee.

Any person desiring to take or catch crabs for market or profit from the waters of this Commonwealth, or waters under its jurisdiction, or any person desiring to engage in the business of buying or marketing crabs for packing or canning crabs, shall pay to any officer the following fees or as such fees may be subsequently revised by the Commission pursuant to § 28.2-201:

1. For each person taking or catching crabs by dip nets, $8;

2. For ordinary trotlines, $8;

3. For patent trotlines, $31;

4. For up to 100 crab pots, $29;

5. For over 100 but not more than 300 crab pots, $48;

6. For over 300 but not more than 500 crab pots, $100;

7. For over 500 crab pots, $250;

8. For each boat used for taking or catching hard crabs with dredges, $58;

9. For each crab trap or crab pound, $5;

10. For each single-rigged crab-scrape boat, $16;

11. For each double-rigged crab-scrape boat, $32;

12. For up to 20 tanks and floats for shedding crabs, $7.50;

13. For more than 20 tanks or floats for shedding crabs, $15; and

14. For taking or catching peeler crabs using peeler pots, $29.

Code 1950, § 28-170; 1954, c. 368; 1956, c. 293; 1960, c. 517; 1962, c. 406, § 28.1-165; 1964, c. 393; 1966, c. 684; 1968, c. 785; 1970, c. 726; 1979, c. 274; 1983, cc. 307, 603; 1985, c. 180; 1990, c. 154; 1992, c. 836; 1993, c. 11; 2009, c. 9.

§ 28.2-703. License for certain assistants not required.

During June through August, any person fifteen years of age or under may be an assistant to a boat operator catching blue crabs by crab pots without obtaining a license.

Code 1950, § 28-170; 1954, c. 368; 1956, c. 293; 1960, c. 517; 1962, c. 406, § 28.1-165; 1964, c. 393; 1966, c. 684; 1968, c. 785; 1970, c. 726; 1979, c. 274; 1983, cc. 307, 603; 1985, c. 180; 1990, c. 154; 1992, c. 836.

§ 28.2-704. Sale of crabbing licenses.

The Commission may require the purchase of licenses before each crab season begins. It may set time periods for the sale of licenses for taking crabs in order to determine the appropriateness of instituting seasonal conservation measures and may grant extensions to individual applicants when it finds exceptional circumstances exist.

1985, c. 165, § 28.1-172.1; 1992, c. 836.

Article 3. Restrictions on Harvesting Crabs.

§ 28.2-705. License restrictions; exemption; penalty.

A. It is unlawful to:

1. Take crabs with a rake which is pulled or pushed by a boat;

2. Use a crab pot which has a mesh less than 1 1/2 inches, unless a different mesh size is promulgated pursuant to subsection B of § 28.2-701;

3. Place food, except as may be provided for in regulations of the Commission, for adult male (jimmy) crabs in a peeler pot. A peeler pot is exempt from mesh size limitations, unless a peeler pot mesh size is promulgated pursuant to subsection B of § 28.2-701;

4. Use a boat when buying crabs which is also used to take or catch hard crabs with dredges, when the Commission has limited the taking of crabs under § 28.2-713.

B. Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

Code 1950, § 28-170; 1954, c. 368; 1956, c. 293; 1960, c. 517; 1962, c. 406, § 28.1-165; 1964, c. 393; 1966, c. 684; 1968, c. 785; 1970, c. 726; 1979, c. 274; 1983, cc. 307, 603; 1985, c. 180; 1990, c. 154; 1992, c. 836; 1995, c. 129; 1998, c. 88; 1999, c. 550.

§ 28.2-706. Restrictions on crab scraping; penalty.

It is unlawful for any person to:

1. Use a crab scrape having a mouth longer than four feet and a toothed bar;

2. Haul a scrape, except by hand; or

3. Have more than two scrapes overboard.

A violation of any provision of this section is a Class 3 misdemeanor.

1983, c. 603, § 28.1-165.1; 1987, cc. 90, 159; 1992, c. 836; 2018, c. 115.

§ 28.2-707. Restrictions on crab dredging; penalty.

A. It is unlawful for any boat licensed to dredge crabs to use more than two dredges at any time when dredging for crabs. Such boat may use only one dredge on each side of the boat or join two dredges together for use over the stern of the boat. The size of dredges shall not exceed limits established by the Commission. The Commission is authorized to promulgate regulations limiting the size of dredges.

B. It is unlawful to dislodge crabs from the bottom with a crab dredge using hydraulic methods.

C. It is unlawful to use a crab dredge on Saturday.

D. It is unlawful to use a dredge for catching crabs between April 1 and December 1; however, the Commission, when in its judgment it is advisable due to weather conditions or for purposes relating to the conservation of the blue crab and it is not contrary to the public interest, may close a season in its entirety, may open any season as early as November 16, may delay opening any season, may extend any season until April 16 and may close any season early.

E. It is unlawful to use dredges to take crabs in any of the rivers, or their estuaries, inlets, or creeks, except on the ocean side of Accomack and Northampton Counties.

Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

Code 1950, § 28-171; 1960, c. 517; 1962, c. 406, § 28.1-166; 1981, c. 52; 1983, c. 603, § 28.1-165.1; 1992, cc. 122, 836; 1994, c. 492; 1996, c. 433.

§ 28.2-708. Limitations on sizes of crabs to be taken; inspection of catch; exemption; penalty.

A. It is unlawful for any person to catch, take or have in his possession more than ten hard crabs per United States standard bushel or thirty-five hard crabs per barrel, which measure less than five inches across the shell from tip to tip of the longest spikes, or to destroy them in any manner. Those undersized crabs in excess of the allowance level shall be immediately returned to the water alive. Adult female crabs, peeler crabs and soft crabs are exempt from these limitations.

B. Any officer may grade or cull any number of barrels, baskets or containers of crabs in any person's possession.

If the officer finds more than ten undersize hard crabs per United States standard bushel or thirty-five per barrel, he shall seize the entire quantity of crabs in or from each such container, and the person who possessed the crabs shall immediately return them to the water. Refusal to return the crabs to the water is a separate offense from any other violation.

C. The requirement in subsections A and B to return crabs to the waters shall apply to crabs taken and in possession of a crabber or catcher but shall not apply to crabs which have been purchased by and are in the possession of a buyer, nor shall it apply to crabs which have been transported at least five miles from the nearest salt water.

D. The Commission may change such size restrictions for a period not to exceed sixty days to respond to significant ecological changes.

E. A violation of this section is a Class 3 misdemeanor.

Code 1950, § 28-172; 1960, c. 517; 1962, c. 406, § 28.1-167; 1966, c. 684; 1970, cc. 610, 726; 1977, c. 35; 1978, c. 369; 1981, c. 52; 1985, c. 166; 1992, c. 836; 1996, cc. 136, 333.

§ 28.2-709. Closed season for taking crabs in certain area; penalty.

It is unlawful for any person to take or catch crabs for resale from the following area except during those periods established pursuant to regulations adopted by the Commission. Ownership of a current license to take or catch crabs shall be prima facie evidence that such taking or catching of crabs was for resale. The limits of the area are defined as follows:

Beginning at the point of origin of the center line of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel facility where such facility commences in the City of Norfolk, Virginia, and following the shoreline in a general easterly direction, and also extending 200' out from the mean low-water mark of such shoreline into the Chesapeake Bay, to Ocean View Fishing Pier, and thence in a general northerly direction to Thimble Shoal Lighthouse; thence running in approximately a northeasterly direction to Cape Charles Lighthouse, located on Smiths Island; and thence in approximately a southwestern direction to Cape Henry Lighthouse, and bounded by the shoreline; and thence following the shoreline in a general westerly direction back to the point of beginning.

A violation of this section is a Class 3 misdemeanor.

Code 1950, § 28-174; 1962, c. 406, § 28.1-170; 1977, c. 262; 1978, cc. 107, 278; 1979, c. 128; 1992, c. 836; 2009, c. 170; 2011, c. 217.

§ 28.2-710. Unlawful to place crab, eel, or fish pots in certain channels; penalty.

It is unlawful to place or maintain any crab, eel, or fish pot in a navigable channel which has navigation aids installed or approved by any agency of the United States government or in any portion of a government marked channel of a river, bay, estuary, creek or inlet. The owner or user of any crab, eel, or fish pot who has located such pot in accordance with this section shall be relieved of civil liability for any damages resulting from the location of such pot.

A violation of this section is a Class 3 misdemeanor.

1968, c. 785, § 28.1-173.1; 1981, c. 23; 1990, c. 493; 1992, c. 836.

§ 28.2-711. Crab pots; unlawful activities; penalty.

It is unlawful to knowingly place, set, or leave any crab pot in any of the tidal tributaries of the Commonwealth between January 1 and January 31. The Commission may change the time period during which such activities are prohibited. Proof that any crab pot was located in any such tributary during the prohibition period constitutes a rebuttable presumption that such pot was knowingly placed, set, or left in that location.

A violation of this section is a Class 4 misdemeanor.

1988, c. 315, § 28.1-173.1:1; 1989, c. 431; 1992, cc. 202, 836.

§ 28.2-712. Identification of crab pots and eel pots; penalty.

On and after January 1, 1993, any person owning or using a crab pot or eel pot, for whom a license is required by this subtitle, shall display and maintain an identification number, issued by the Commissioner, on the float or stake attached to each such crab pot or eel pot, in a legible and visible manner and in figures of not less than one inch in height. The identification of the owner of such crab pot or eel pot by the number above described shall not result in liability on its owner for its location so long as the crab pot or eel pot is placed in the waters of this Commonwealth in compliance with Virginia law.

A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

1968, c. 750, § 28.1-173.2; 1992, cc. 235, 836.

§ 28.2-713. Limiting the taking of crabs by one boat in one day; penalty.

Whenever the interest of conservation or the crabbing industry requires, the Commission may limit the taking or catching of crabs by one boat in one day. Violation of such a regulation is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Possession of crabs in excess of the amount provided by such regulation shall be prima facie evidence of violation; however, the provisions of this section shall not apply to crab buy boats.

Code 1950, § 28-172.1; 1956, c. 357; 1958, c. 449; 1962, c. 406, § 28.1-168; 1992, c. 836.