Crab numbers excellent

Published 5:55 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Chesapeake Bay blue crab population is up 60 percent from last year — a boon for the watermen who harvest them and consumers who enjoy eating them. 

Blue crab stocks are the best they’ve been since 2012, according to the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee. 

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The report concludes that the fishery is not depleted and not overfished, with the total population increasing from 372 million in 2018 to 594 million this year, according to the report.

The results include data from the annual Bay-wide winter dredge survey.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The report noted that 23 percent of all female crabs were harvested, falling below the targeted 25.5 percent and below the threshold of 34 percent for the eleventh consecutive year. 

At the start of the season this year, there were about 191 million age one and up female crabs, above the abundance threshold of 70 million crabs and near the target of 215 million crabs, according to the report. 

Also this year, overwintering deaths were below average and among the lowest observed in recent years, according to the report. 

The report advises jurisdictions to maintain a risk-adverse approach with no adjustments to management and implement ways to more accurately track commercial and recreational harvest. 

The blue crab population has fluctuated after a precipitous drop in 1992, falling below 400 million from 1997-2009. The population has stayed at or above 400 million except between 2013-2014, according to the report. 

“By using sound science included in this annual report to manage the fishery, the Bay jurisdictions have enabled responsible harvest of female blue crabs for the past ten consecutive years. Consumers can enjoy their Chesapeake Bay crab feasts knowing blue crabs are responsibly managed,” said Sean Corson, acting director, NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office; Chair, Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team.

Blue crabs are important to the Chesapeake Bay’s ecology and economy, as both a food source for animals and humans, as well as supporting recreational and commercial fishing. 

The Blue Crab Advisory Report is developed by the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee, a group of experts from state and federal agencies and academic institutions. The blue crab fishery in the Chesapeake Bay is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Virginia Marine Resources Commission and Potomac River Fisheries Commission. {/mprestriction}