Saturday, July 08, 2006

Blue Crabs in the Chesapeake Bay

For Marylanders, summer is all about the water. With the warm weather comes trips to the Eastern Shore and Ocean City, boat outings around the Chesapeake Bay, and, of course, crab feasts!

We often hear “blue crabs are in trouble,” but what does that really mean?

The State of the Crab
Scientists survey crab populations by trawling nets to collect crabs or by counting crabs already collected in pots.

The good news is that they have not recorded a massive decline in stock, or local population, lately. In fact, stock estimates during 2002 and 2003 showed improvement over 2001 levels, which were reported at historic lows not seen since the early 1970’s.

Scientists remain concerned that population may drop once again. The future is dependant on high birth rates and the ability of newborn and young crabs to survive over a series of years.

The Chesapeake Bay Commission's 2003 Blue Crab Report demonstrates a need for continued conservation efforts from the private and public sectors.

In 2003, the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s Bi-State Blue Crab Advisory Committee (BBCAC), a committee in place to ensure inter-state coordination between Maryland and Virginia, issued a report outlining several actions to help replenish blue crab populations.

The committee adopted a recommendation of a threshold that would preserve 10% of the blue crab’s spawning stock. If the threshold is not met, the reproductive capacity of the stock could be jeopardized.

Since issuing the report, the committee has disbanded due to insufficient funding.

What's Being Done
To meet the target goal, all three regions making up the BBCAC (Maryland, Virginia, and Potomac River Fisheries Commission) agreed to put new regulations on both commercial and recreational crabbers, as well as seafood processors. These include size limits, restrictions on length of workdays and fishing seasons, and the establishment of seasonal sanctuaries off limits to commercial crabbing.

The Aquarium applauds such initiatives, and invites volunteers to join us for tidal marsh restoration on the Bay to rebuild and preserve the crab's natural habitat.

We encourage our friends and partners to take personal action to ensure that the crabs we catch and eat adhere to size restrictions so that they can grow big enough to produce offspring.

Get more information about blue crab conservation:

Chesapeake Bay Commission
Maryland Sea Grant

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