The State of Today's Blue Crab Fishery

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The Chesapeake’s iconic blue crabs have shown steady improvement since a low point in 2014. The 2018 Winter Dredge Survey conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources showed the the population remains within healthy, sustainable parameters. While the cold winter resulted in a decrease in adult crabs, including spawning-age females, the juvenile population increased 34 percent. We hope that as young crabs increase their abundance, it will yield a population increase that provides brighter economic futures to Bayside communities dependent on crabs, like Smith and Tangier Islands.

Stability for the Bay's blue crab population has been limited by degraded habitat, in particular underwater grass bed coverage, which is fortunately beginning to show signs of improvement. Blue crabs need grass beds for nursery areas and protection from predators. New management approaches also need to be explored. Despite the good news, the crab population has not reached its target level, a fact that emphasizes the need to stay the course with science-based limits. This iconic symbol of the Chesapeake is resilient, but our appetite for it—in all forms—demands caution and restraint lest we love it to death.

More About Blue Crabs

  • Blue Crabs

    The blue crab is one of the more resilient of Chesapeake species, but its fate depends on many factors.

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  • Photo of the Week: En Garde!

    A blue crab prepares for battle in Northumberland County Virginia.

  • Worth Repeating: Grasses = Crabs

    In this episode, CBF President Will Baker sits down with longtime CBF staffer Bart Jaeger to talk about the relationship between underwater grasses and the Bay’s blue crab population.

  • Grasses = Crabs

    In this episode, CBF President Will Baker sits down with longtime CBF staffer Bart Jaeger to talk about the relationship between underwater grasses and the Bay’s blue crab population.

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