(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—The Winter Blue Crab Dredge Survey released today showed mixed results. The total number of crabs was significantly down, due primarily to a low number of juveniles from poor reproduction last year. However the number of adult females increased 50 percent. In light of the findings, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) issued the following statements.
CBF President William C. Baker said:
"Everyone who values healthy and abundant crabs and fish, and the clean water they need to thrive, should be concerned. To those who call the stormwater fee a rain tax, I would encourage them to think about it as a crab tax.
"The drop in the number of crabs is likely the result of weather, pollution, habitat loss, and increased predation. Bay grasses provide essential habitat and shelter for juvenile crabs, and have been significantly reduced in recent years. Reducing pollution, including better managing stormwater runoff before it gets into rivers and streams, will improve water quality, contribute to Bay grass revival, and improve habitat for crabs.
"While progress has been made, the Chesapeake Bay remains a system dangerously out of balance. Implementing the states' Clean Water Blueprints will finish the job."
CBF Senior Fisheries Scientist Bill Goldsborough said:
"Fluctuations in crab abundance are driven by the number of adult females, weather's impact on movement of juvenile crabs into the Bay, and the survival of young crabs. It is disappointing that after 2011's strong reproduction that so many juvenile crabs fell victim to degraded habitat. Apparently, last year's poor reproduction was due to unfavorable weather, which we can't control, and low numbers of females, which we can.
"Fisheries management policies must be guided by sound science. CBF strongly encourages Maryland, Virginia, and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission to continue the collaborative approach that has brought about the positive trends in the Bay blue crab population. CBF supports reducing the catch as necessary to avoid exceeding the target fishing rate and maintain sufficient numbers of female crabs, crucial to the long-term health of the population."
Visit Maryland's Department of Natural Resources website for more information about the winter dredge survey.