Chesapeake Blue Crab Numbers Remain Low Despite Signs of Improvement

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Highlights Need for Protection

The Chesapeake Bay blue crab population showed some signs of improvement from a previous 33-year low in survey results released today, but concerns remain about their overall decline.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission and Maryland Department of Natural Resources released results from the annual blue crab winter dredge survey, an estimate of the population of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.  

The 2024 survey estimated total crab abundance at 317 million blue crabs. This is a slight reduction from the last year’s survey, which estimated the population at 323 million blue crabs. This year’s numbers were still above the 2022 record low estimate of 227 million crabs. 

In 2024, the adult female crab population decreased to 133 million compared with 152 million last year. This figure falls far below the target of 215 million adult female crabs needed for a healthy population and sustainable harvest in the Chesapeake Bay.  

Juvenile crab numbers improved slightly when compared to 2022, but the juvenile population remained below average for the fourth year in a row.  Male crab numbers decreased from 55 million in 2023 to 46 million in 2024 despite male harvest limits instituted last year.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science and Maryland Department of Natural Resources conduct this annual survey of the population of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Watch a video of how the survey is conducted. 

Covering more than 1,500 locations, the winter dredge survey is one of the most comprehensive studies of any species in the Bay, dating back to 1990. It is conducted jointly by Maryland and Virginia from December through March.  

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Executive Director Chris Moore issued this statement:

“The results of this year’s survey are less than hoped for  given the importance of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay region. The continued low numbers of adult females and males underscores the need to protect these segments of the population. 

“Given the lackluster results of this year’s survey, states should proceed with caution when considering regulatory changes for the upcoming seasons and avoid changes that would increase harvest.

“While juvenile population estimates can vary greatly from year to year, it is encouraging to see a slight increase in this segment of the population. However, given the population estimates from this year’s survey, there remains a significant need to continue to protect adult females and critical nursery habitats, like underwater grasses, in order help ensure better numbers in the future.  

“CBF looks forward to the March 2026 results of the ongoing blue crab stock assessment, which we hope will identify the key ecosystem factors influencing blue crab recruitment and survival so that they can be mitigated to secure a healthy blue crab population.”


Vanessa Remmers

Virginia Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

The Bay Needs You

The State of the Bay Report makes it clear that the Bay needs our support now more than ever. Your donation helps the Chesapeake Bay Foundation maintain our momentum toward a restored Bay, rivers, and streams for today and generations to come.

Donate Today

Stay Up-to-Date on Bay News

Want to stay up-to-date on all news and happenings in your region and across the Chesapeake watershed? Join our digital community.

Sign Up
This website uses cookies to tailor and enhance your online experience. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more information, including details on how to disable cookies, please visit our Privacy Policy. Close