Sustainability is one of the biggest focuses of Alabama’s seafood industry as of late. The same goes for our neighbors along the Gulf Coast.
That’s why the efforts of organizations like the Audubon Nature Institute’s G.U.L.F. program (Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries) are so valuable to not just our industry but the Gulf ecosystem as a whole.
Audubon G.U.L.F., which services all five states in the Gulf Coast, uses Marine Advancement Plans (MAPs) to provide a hands-on approach to sustainability efforts while working with the community throughout the process.
These MAPs follow an eight-step strategy that involves identifying fisheries in need, assigning a committee to collect data and put together a plan, and implementing and monitoring the procedures. Management agencies and industry members provide input and insight throughout the process to ensure positive change.
Here in Alabama, Audubon G.U.L.F.’s focus is blue crab.
There are over 200 commercial crabbers here in Alabama, and our current average landings of 2 million pounds per year net close to $2 million in dockside value. Only eight percent of blue crabs in the Gulf of Mexico are landed in our state, but we process roughly 50 percent of every annual harvest.
“The blue crab fishery is the third most valuable fishery landed in Alabama, after shrimp and finfish,” said Chris Blankenship, Director of Marine Resources for Alabama. “While Alabama waters produce a lot of crabs, we are the largest processor of crabs in the Gulf. Every night, thousands of pounds of blue crabs are brought to Alabama from other states for boiling and processing. The crab fishery provides thousands of jobs for Alabamians and everyone loves crabs.”
Needless to say, blue crab is very important to Alabama’s seafood industry, and Audubon G.U.L.F.’s Alabama Blue Crab MAP is very important to maintaining our blue crab populations and ensuring sustainability.
Alabama’s blue crab fishery, which is managed by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Marine Resources Division (MRD), has implemented preventative measures such as minimum size limit, gear restrictions, and closure areas in order to better protect our blue crab population.
As a result, the 2013 Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission Blue Crab Stock Assessment determined that the Alabama’s blue crab stock is not currently being overfished.
“It is important to our environment and our economy that blue crabs are sustainably managed all across the Gulf states,” said Blankenship. “The work that the Audubon G.U.L.F. program is doing should ensure that we all have a good blue crab fishery in perpetuity.”
Audubon G.U.L.F.’s MAPs are not self-sustaining, however—they depend on involvement from people in the industry such as fishermen, processors, distributors, and retailers.
Those involved in Alabama’s seafood industry are encouraged to learn more about Audubon G.U.L.F.’s upcoming events and other ways they can help the cause.
To learn more about Alabama blue crab and the men and women who catch and process it, check out this video from the ADCNR.