Survey yields mixed verdict on blue crab stock

by Karl Blankenship, Bay Journal News Service

The harvest of blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay is regulated to limit the catch of female crabs. Bay Journal photo by Dave Harp

The number of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay this winter plummeted to the fourth lowest on record, driven largely by the worst-ever showing of juvenile crabs since an annual baywide survey began in 1990.

Although the juvenile drop is concerning, fishery managers say the number of adult females remains robust. They hope the females will produce a better crop of juveniles when they breed later this year.

This year’s winter dredge survey, which provides an annual snapshot of the health of the blue crab stock, estimated that the Chesapeake had 282 million crabs, the lowest number since 2007. That figure includes just 81 million juveniles, the lowest in the survey’s history.

But the number of young crabs naturally varies….

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