Chesapeake Bay Scientists Concerned by Low Numbers of Young Female Blue Crabs

Jun 22, 2017

Credit AP Photo / Vicki Smith

Those Chesapeake Bay blue crabs spread across your picnic table or served up as crab cakes are the result of a hard working waterman. What you may not know, it's also because of science. State fisheries managers closely monitor the population and adjust harvests throughout season. 

Baby female blue crabs mean future crabs on your plate. That's why fisheries managers closely guard that population. So, while the number of adult female crabs increased this year by a whopping 31 percent, managers like Virginia's fisheries chief Rob O'Reilly, were troubled by the next generation of females.

“So, it's the fourth lowest in 28 years. Some steps need to be taken, not major steps, but just enough so that we conserve as many of the potential 2018 spawning stock as we can.”

Fisheries managers, scientists discuss sustainability of species, such as blue crab, in the Chesapeake Bay.
Credit Pamela D'Angelo

Winter harvest of crabs has been prohibited in Virginia since 2008. That improved the population. But crab reproduction naturally fluctuates and can be affected by the environment, weather, predators and even cannibalism. The Potomac River Fisheries Commission and Maryland's Department of Natural Resources plan to make adjustments similar to Virginia says DNR's Dave Blazer.

“We're basically looking at modifying the season length and bushel limits, similar to what Virginia and PRFC have discussed, all with that conservation mind to protecting that 2016 year class.”

Regulators will hold public hearings and meet with crabbers next week to discuss how to protect those young female crabs.