Survey shows ongoing rebound for Chesapeake’s blue crabs |

Survey shows ongoing rebound for Chesapeake’s blue crabs

Associated Press
Blue crabs are displayed for sale at the Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington. Blue crabs are rebounding in the Chesapeake Bay, with an annual survey showing the highest estimated population in seven years, Monday, May 6, 2019.

BALTIMORE — Blue crabs are rebounding in the Chesapeake Bay, with an annual survey showing the highest estimates of the clawed critters in seven years.

The dredging survey released Monday is the latest sign of a healthy crab population and welcome news for fisherfolk in America’s largest estuary and those who love cracking into bushels of the bay’s iconic crustaceans. Feasts of blue crabs steamed in peppery seasoning or fashioned into succulent crabcakes are a beloved delicacy and one of last viable regional fisheries.

“It looks like we’re heading in the right direction,” said Robert T. Brown, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, a nonprofit that represents commercial fishermen and other seafood interests in the mid-Atlantic state nearly synonymous with shellfish. “I think it shows you’ve got to be conservative to get your population to increase.”

Overall, the baywide crab population rose by 60% from last year to reach an estimated total of 594 million crabs. An annual winter survey released by the states of Maryland and Virginia shows almost twice as many juveniles as last year. Adult males rose by 38 percent, or roughly 80 million. And perhaps most importantly, spawning-age females have increased, too, climbing to 190 million for a nearly 30 percent gain.

The dredging results are the latest evidence of blue crabs’ resurgence following strict harvest restrictions put in place in Maryland and Virginia in 2008 after falling to worrying lows.

“The blue crab population is both healthy and thriving, which is great news for the entire bay,” Maryland’s natural resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said in a statement on Monday.

Michael Luisi, Maryland’s director of fisheries monitoring and assessment, said the total tally of females “is close to our target” while the numbers of juveniles were above average. He said officials expect variability in the population of the finicky crustaceans so “taking a conservative approach offers stability for the fisheries in the face of swings in abundance.”

While mild winter temperatures helped increase survival rates for juveniles and adults, scientists say authorities certainly deserve their share of credit for efforts to reduce pollution by states in the watershed. Good fisheries management and healthy habitat are the two keys to a strong blue crab population, said Chris Moore, a senior scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

“This is another year of positive news for crabs in the bay, thanks to wise management of the commercial and recreational fisheries for blue crabs. Increasing important blue crab habitat such as underwater grasses and oyster reefs also helps to boost the crab population,” Moore said Monday. “We hope the bay states will continue their wise management policies and water quality investments in order to maintain these promising numbers.”

Blue crabs are the Chesapeake’s biggest money maker and Maryland’s unofficial symbol, appearing on door knockers, porch flags and T-shirts. Steamed crabs have long been as much a summer tradition along the mid-Atlantic coast as baseball and trips to the beach.

Following the news about the population estimates, the office of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan issued a photo of the governor and his wife enthusiastically tucking into a bushel of steamed crabs at a local eatery.

In 2018, the baywide blue crab harvest was 55 million pounds, similar to the 54 million pounds harvested in 2017.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.