Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Commercial Limits for Lobsters, Crabs & Whelk

Updated January 6, 2017

The commercial harvest of lobsters, crabs, horseshoe crabs and whelks, or possession of quantities in excess of recreational limits, requires a permit from New York State. To apply for a permit or for more information on the qualifications for permit issuance, please contact the DEC Marine Permit Office at 631-444-0483.

Please Note: Any person who is the holder of a marine commercial lobster, lobster landing or lobster bait gill net permit; a marine commercial crab permit; or a horseshoe crab permit is required to submit a Vessel Trip Report (VTR) for each commercial fishing trip taken. The VTR must include all required effort, species and landing information. In most cases, VTRs must be submitted at least monthly. However, horseshoe crab permit holders must submit their VTRs weekly during the months of May, June and July. For more information on reporting requirements, please call the Commercial Fisheries Office at 631-444-0857.

A more complete listing of applicable regulations for the commercial lobster, crab and horseshoe crab fisheries, including gear restrictions, pot tag and vent requirements and boundary descriptions of Lobster Management Areas (LMAs), can be found in Part 44 of 6 NYCRR. A link to these regulations is available in the right hand column.

Lobster Management Measures:

Lobster permit holders who designate more than one LMA are required to abide by the most restrictive size and possession limits, trap tag limits and any closed season requirements no matter where they are fishing.

Lobster Management Area Fishery Status Minimum Size Limit Maximum Size Limit Additional Harvest Requirements
Area 2 Open 3-3/8" CL 5-1/4" CL Harvest of egg-bearing females prohibited
Mandatory v-notching of legal-size egg-bearing females
Area 3 Open 3-17/32" CL 6-3/4" CL Harvest of egg bearing females prohibited;
Seasonal closure in Closed Area II: Nov 1 - Jun 15
Area 4 Open 3-3/8" CL 5-1/4" CL Harvest of egg-bearing females prohibited
Seasonal closure: Apr 30 - May 31
Area 5 Open 3-3/8" CL 5-1/4" CL Harvest of egg-bearing females prohibited
Mandatory v-notching of legal-size egg-bearing females
Seasonal closure: Feb 1 - Mar 31
Area 6 Open 3-3/8" CL 5-1/4" CL Harvest of egg-bearing females prohibited
Seasonal closure: Sept 8 - Nov 28

CL = Carapace length. The measurement from the rear end of the eye socket, along a line parallel to the center line of the body shell (carapace), to the rear end of the body shell (carapace).

All lobster pots or traps are required to have escape vents and color-coded trap tags. Annual trap tags are issued by DEC or their authorized agent from January 1 through May 31 of each year and must be affixed to lobster pots or traps by June 1.

Minimum Lobster Pot Escape Vent Size
Lobster Management Area Minimum Rectangular Vent Size (1 Required) Minimum Circular Vent Size (2 Required)
Areas 2, 4, 5 & 6 5-3/4" x 2" 2-5/8"
Area 3 5-3/4" x 2-1/16" 2-11/16"

Blue Crab Management Measures:

Blue Crabs Fishery Status Minimum Size Limit Additional Harvest Requirements
Hard Shell Open 4-1/2" CW Harvest of egg-bearing females (sponge crabs) is prohibited
Soft Shell Open 3-1/2" CW Harvest of egg-bearing females (sponge crabs) is prohibited
Peelers (Shedders) Open 3" CW Harvest of egg-bearing females (sponge crabs) is prohibited

CW = Carapace width. The longest straight line width of the body shell, including any spines or spikes, but not including claws, legs or other appendages.

Blue crab pots or traps are required to have at least one oval or rectangular escape vent with an minimum opening of 6-1/2" in length by 5 " in height.

Please consult this Map of Prohibited Crab Dredging Areas to learn which areas are closed to crab dredging. Local towns may have additional restrictions on catch limits, size limits, season, type of gear and may require residency and additional permits. Please contact towns for more information.

Please visit the Marine Fisheries Issue page to view the maps of the Proposed Terrapin Excluder Device Areas.

Horseshoe Crab Management Measures:

Please visit the Commercial Fishing Limits webpage for the current commercial horseshoe crab fishing limit. When the commercial fishery is closed, horse shoe crab permit holders may continue to take the recreational limit of five (5) crabs per day for personal use. These crabs should not be incuded in commercial harvest reports.

The total annual commercial bait harvest of horseshoe crabs may not exceed the amount annually allocated to New York State by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. To protect the sustainability of horseshoe crab stocks, New York has voluntarily reduced the permitted annual harvest of horseshoe crabs in New York State to a total of 150,000 crabs. To prevent the annual harvest allocation from being exceeded, DEC has developed a quota distribution plan for the 2015 commercial horseshoe crab fishery.

Please consult these Maps of Closed Horseshoe Crab Areas to learn which areas are closed to the hand-harvest of horseshoe crabs.

Whelk (Conch) Management Measures:

Fishery Status Trip Limit Minimum Size Limit Additional Harvest Requirements
Open --- --- ---

The DEC may prohibit the harvest, possession, transportation and sale of whelks and other carnivorous gastropods from areas that are designated as uncertified for the harvest of shellfish due to the presence of marine biotoxins. When biotoxin closures occur, a map and description of the affected area will be posted on the Temporary Emergency Shellfish Closures webpage. Please note, whelks are only included in closures for carnivorous gastropods.

DEC is currently preparing to propose a rule making that will change the regulations for whelk, horseshoe crabs, and crabs. This multi-species rule making, an omnibus rule making, may affect many licensed fishermen. More detailed information about these proposed changes can be found in the Crustacean Rule Making Scoping Document (PDF) (1.5 MB).