Today the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and Maryland Department of Natural Resources released the results of the 2022 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey, an annual estimate of the population of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
This year’s survey estimated total crab abundance at 227 million, the lowest in the survey’s 33-year history. The adult female and male population both decreased, with males also at record lows and the number of juvenile crabs continuing a troubling three-year below average trend in recruitment.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Senior Regional Ecosystem Scientist Chris Moore issued this statement:
“The results of this year’s survey continue a worrying trend for blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay region. The continued low abundance of juveniles and adult males indicates the urgent need for action to protect these segments of the population.”
“Although juvenile population estimates can vary greatly from year to year, the 2022 results are the third year of below-average numbers in this segment of the population. These reduced abundances highlight the need to continue to protect adult females in order help ensure better numbers in the future.
“This year’s survey follows two consecutive years of declines in the coverage of underwater grasses, one of the most important habitats for blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. It is likely that the loss of grasses is contributing to the blue crab’s decline, along with water quality challenges and predation by invasive blue catfish.
“Fisheries regulators and scientists must work quickly to identify the key ecosystem factors influencing blue crab recruitment and survival so that they can be mitigated to ensure a healthy blue crab population in the future.”