The Chesapeake Bay region’s blue crab advisory report for this year is out and experts have found the popular crustacean’s population numbers show some stability.
In a press release, the Chesapeake Bay Program reports that the blue crab population “is not being overfished and is not depleted.”
A variety of entities, including the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, provide harvest data to compile the report, which is developed by the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee.
“The winter dredge survey indicated that the total abundance of all crabs — males and females of all ages — was approximately 282 million individuals in 2021,” the committee reported in its executive summary. “Based on analysis of the winter dredge survey results, the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee does not recommend substantial changes in management at this time. Further, [the committee] recommends that the jurisdictions implement procedures that improve accountability of all commercial and recreational harvest moving forward, as this is an important component for accurately assessing stock health.”
The Chesapeake Bay Program points out that the estuary’s blue crab populations can vary from year-to-year, “based on weather and other environmental conditions, as well as how many are caught. Commercial fishermen rely on having a steady supply of crabs in the bay and recreational crabbers enjoy being able to catch crabs. Scientific analysis, like that included in the blue crab advisory report, helps resource managers make decisions that promote a sustainable supply of crabs.”
“All of us who love blue crabs benefit from the science-based analysis and discussion in the report,” Sean Corson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement shortly after the latest data was released. “The report helps state resource managers set limits that leave enough crabs in the bay to ensure healthy harvests for years to come.”
The Chesapeake Bay Program points out that the blue crab harvest declined across the bay area during the 2020 crabbing season, due to reduced restaurant patronage during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Commercial fishermen harvested approximately 41.6 million pounds of blue crabs from the bay and its tributaries in 2020, down from the 61 million pounds harvested in 2019,” the Chesapeake Bay Program reported. “Recreational crabbers harvested an estimated 2.4 million pounds in 2020, a decrease from the 3.8 million pounds harvested in 2019.”
Mike Luisi of Maryland Department of Natural Resource’s monitoring and assessment division stated that while it appears the stakeholders’ management tactics appear to be working, “the low level of juvenile and male crabs is reason for concern and those segments of the population will need to be closely monitored throughout the crabbing season.”