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Commercial Limits for Lobsters, Crabs & Whelk

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. For more information on the qualifications for permit issuance, visit Marine Permits and Licenses or contact DEC Marine Permit Office at 631-444-0470 or MPO@dec.ny.gov.

Effective May 11, 2022, the minimum size limit for commercially harvested whelk is 5 1/2 inches shell length or 2 1/4 inches shell height for all marine waters of New York State except Long Island Sound Region (LIS).

The Long Island Sound Region (LIS) includes all marine and coastal district waters lying east of the Throgs Neck Bridge and west of a line that runs from Orient Point, NY to Watch Hill, RI. The following size limits shall apply for the Long Island Sound Management Region:

  • Effective August 1, 2022, no person shall take, possess, or land whelk less than 4 ¾ inches in length or 1 15/16 inches in height.
  • Effective January 1, 2024, no person shall take, possess, or land whelk less than 5 inches in length or 2 inches in height.
  • Effective January 1, 2026, no person shall take, possess, or land whelk less than 5 1/4 inches in length or 2 1/8 inches in height.
  • Effective January 1, 2028, no person shall take, possess, or land whelk less than 5 1/2 inches in length or 2 1/4 inches in height.

Pursuant to 50.2(a)(1), whelk permit holders must include the area fished on their fishing vessel trip report. Pursuant to 50.2(b)(1), food fish and crustacea dealers and shippers license holders must include a fishing vessel trip ID number on their Purchases from Fishing Vessels Report or Fishermen Report.

Reporting Requirements

Any person who is the holder of a marine commercial lobster, lobster landing or lobster bait gill net permit, a marine commercial crab permit, a horseshoe crab permit, or a commercial whelk 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 Data Management Unit at 631-444-0857 or VTR@dec.ny.gov.

Gear Requirements and Restrictions

  • Floating buoy or identification marker attached to all traps in operation must be clearly visible on the surface of the water. Plastic containers, bottles or jugs originally designed to contain liquids must not be used as buoys or markers.
    • Each buoy or marker attached to a trap must be of a distinctive color.
    • The permit number assigned to the permit holder for the current year must be painted or otherwise affixed on each buoy or marker in a contrasting color OR branded on each buoy or marker.
    • The permit number must be visible and at least two inches in height.
  • The same permit number appearing on a buoy or marker must also be on all traps identified by that buoy or marker.
    • The permit number must be visible and at least 3/4 inches in height.
    • If the construction of a pot or trap does not allow it to be marked by branding, that pot or trap shall be marked by a tag or other device
    • This tag or other device shall be of a material that is not deteriorated by sea water and shall be firmly attached to the pot or trap it identifies.
  • Traps shall not be placed within 25 feet of designated navigation channels, and all floating buoys or identification markers and lines attached to such pots shall remain outside designated navigation channels at all times.
    • Exception: Traps directly attached to the shoreline or a bulkhead provided that neither the pot nor any attached lines or markers are within such channel or traps affixed to a vessel with at least one person aboard.

A more complete listing of applicable regulations for the commercial lobster, blue crab, horseshoe crab, and whelk 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 (link leaves DEC website).

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).

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"

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.

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 a minimum opening of 6 inches by 4 inches in length and 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.

Terrapin Excluder Devices (TEDs) must be used on all non-collapsible crab pots or traps that are fished in creeks, coves, rivers, tributaries, and near-shore harbors of the Marine and Coastal District. An interactive map (link leaves DEC's website) is available for your reference. TEDs shall be securely fastened inside each funnel entrance of the crab pot to effectively reduce the size of the funnel opening to no larger than 4-¾ inches x 1-¾ inches.

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 included 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 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.

Two horseshoe crab permit holders may now harvest from a single vessel; each can take a single harvest limit. No more than two harvest limits may be possessed on board a vessel or in a vehicle, provided there are at least two permit holders present. Each permit holder must submit their own separate VTR.

Whelk (Conch) Management Measures

Whelk Management Area Fishery Status Minimum Size Limit Upcoming Changes to Minimum Size Limit
All waters in New York State Marine & Coastal District
except Long Island Sounds Region
Open 5 ½ inches shell length OR 2 ¼ inches shell height ---
Long Island Sound (LIS) Region
(includes all marine and coastal district waters lying east of the Throgs Neck Bridge and west of a line that runs from Orient Point, NY to Watch Hill, RI)
Open Effective August 1, 2022
4 ¾ inches shell length OR
1 15/16 inches shell height
Effective January 1, 2024
5 inches in length OR
2 inches in height
Effective January 1, 2026
5 1/4 inches in length OR 2 1/8 inches in height
Effective January 1, 2028
5 1/2 inches in length OR 2 1/4 inches in height.

Additional Harvest Requirements

  • Whelk pots or traps using horseshoe crabs as bait must contain a bait saving device. All horseshoe crabs or horseshoe crab parts used in whelk pots, or traps must be wholly contained within the bait saving device.
  • A buoy line must be constructed so that the line does not float at the surface, such as a sinking line or weighted line.
  • Whelk pots or traps cannot exceed a volume larger than 22,950 cubic inches.
  • Whelk cannot be taken by whelk pots or traps one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.

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.