Results from the annual Baywide Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey showed that the number of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay hit a record low, marking the lowest count in more than three decades of tracking. The survey comes up with an estimate of the blue crab population, and this year tallied 227 million crabs, the “lowest abundance observed since the survey began in 1990,” said the authors of the count. Officials saythe survey by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) is key to knowing how to manage the number of blue crabs that can be harvested each year by commercial and recreational fishing operations.
“It provides the guardrails of how we manage the crab harvest,” said Michael Luisi, acting director of Maryland DNR Fishing and Boating.
But, how can we reverse this?
Local waterman Scott Wivell has some ideas, “change the red drum slot size to 16-30″… get rid of the maximum size limit for blue catfish… reduced bushel limits in the spring to allow our spawning age females to shed their eggs but enact a trigger that raises that limit back up if the winter dredge survey show a certain abundance… get rid of the sanctuary in the bay or reduce it down in size because all it does is force crabbers up into our estuaries… and instead create sanctuaries up our estuaries to allow these juvenile crabs to shed off and harden up… eliminate agents or make them medical transfer only… put a pause on crab license transfers and make it so you must hold a license for 5 years before you can transfer it.”
Officials at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, which helped with the survey, said in a statement that adult female crabs are “the key to conservation.” Each female can spawn an average of 3 million eggs per brood and in one year can average up to three broods. Female crabs observed in the survey are predicted to spawn in late May to midsummer, so that contributes to next year’s juvenile population, officials said.