The State of Today's Blue Crab Fishery


Although the Chesapeake’s iconic blue crabs have shown steady improvement since a low point in 2014, the 2017 winter dredge survey produced a mixed bag: a record number of adult females, but low juvenile abundance that has led to reduced catches in the fall and likely points to a tough spring for the fishery in 2018. We hope that 2017’s stronger spawning stock of mature females will produce 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


  • Let Science Be Your Guide

    CBF President Will Baker and retiring CBF Fisheries Scientist Bill Goldsborough discuss the progress made using the science-based management of rockfish, crabs, oysters, and menhaden over the last decades.

  • Underwater Crab

    Video used for 2016 Year in Review landing page

  • Bullish on Blue Crabs

    CBF President Will Baker and Fisheries Scientist Bill Goldsborough discuss the current state of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay.

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