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 2019 Winter Dredge Survey conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources showed increasing numbers of all three major biological indicators of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay—total juveniles, total number of crabs, and the abundance of spawning age females. The total number of crabs was estimated at 594 million, the highest since 2012. While there are many variables that affect blue crabs, these strong numbers are not surprising after a mild winter and the good harvests reported by watermen last fall and this spring. Good fisheries management and healthy habitat are the two big keys to a strong blue crab population.

Stability for the Bay's blue crab population has been limited by degraded habitat, in particular underwater grass bed coverage, which is fortunately showing 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.

 Multimedia

  • 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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