The Bay Has a Lot More Female Blue Crabs This Year, and They’re Ready to Spawn

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Survey says: The Bay has more female crabs ready to give birth than ever before.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources released new data showing female blue crabs of spawning age are at record highs. The department has been digging into the mud to conduct the Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey has been conducted for 28 years, and this year’s population for that specific category is the highest ever.

Along with benefitting crabbers and our summer deck plans, The female crabs are considered a “major scientific benchmark for the health of the species,” DNR’s David Blazer said in a statement released with the survey. It’s also a sign that regulations to control the size of the population are working.

The news follows last year’s report that there were more crabs in the Bay than ever. However, the overall number of blue crabs was down slightly this year. One reason is a drop in the number of young crabs. That population is dependent on favorable Atlantic Ocean currents, temperatures and winds to bring them into the Chesapeake Bay, so it can be more variable.

Still, the number of crabs is well above what Bay watchers consider healthy — at least for the first part of the summer.  That means the early summer will bode well for crabbers. Later in the summer, however, crabs could become more scarce due to the decline of the younger population.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation called the results a “mixed bag,” and said regulations should be kept in place.

“The crab population is affected year to year by weather and other factors. We can help by continuing to reduce pollution, and to restore crab habitat such as underwater grass beds where juvenile crabs find protection from predators,” said Chris Moore, a senior scientist.

Federal funding for some of those activities is potentially in jeopardy, with the Trump administration threatening to cancel the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program.

Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Technical.ly Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.