NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — An annual survey by marine officials shows a significant increase in the number of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay.
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission says the overall bay-wide crab population increased from 297 million crabs to 411 million crabs, a 38 percent increase. The increased numbers followed regulations by Virginia, Maryland and the Potomac Fisheries Commission that reduced commercial crab harvests by 10 percent. Officials say that reduction helped rebuild the population.
The long, cold winter kept the numbers from being higher. The survey shows about 28 percent of all adult crabs in Maryland died due to the cold weather.
Officials say they’ll continue to focus on protecting adult females and juvenile crabs and building up the female population. Juvenile crabs now comprise the majority of the crab stock.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) President William C. Baker issued the following statement after the release of the winter crab dredge survey:
CBF is very encouraged that despite this winter’s harsh weather, all segments of the Bay’s blue crab population showed modest increases. It’s especially noteworthy that the number of female crabs grew, given their importance to the overall crab population. CBF is hopeful the increases will lead to better harvests for watermen across the Bay region, especially those who are so dependent on crabs for a significant portion of their livelihood. Still, despite these modest increases, it is clear the Bay’s blue crab population would be strengthened by improved water quality and crab habitat. The Bay states can do their part by implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint to ensure the ecosystem can support a healthy crab population.