NOAA: Chesapeake Blue Crab Stocks Remain Below Average
The Chesapeake Bay blue crab population remained below the long-term average last year, according to a report released yesterday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Steering Committee.
The 2007 harvest of 43.5 million pounds was the lowest recorded since 1945.
The population of spawning-age blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) in Chesapeake Bay in 2007-08 was 120 million crabs, down from 143 million in 2006-07. The interim target population for spawning-age crabs is 200 million.
"The science provided by the Blue Crab Advisory Report is critical as state resource managers make decisions regarding the blue crab fishery," says Peyton Robertson, director of the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. "This consistent and continued cooperative assessment by the Bay jurisdictions, supported by a multi-agency team of expert analysts, establishes a sound basis for making decisions that will determine the future of the crab population."
Based on the historical relationship between crab population and the following year's harvest, the 2008 harvest is expected to remove approximately 67 percent of the Bay's adult crab population. These harvest levels are higher than a healthy crab population can sustain, says NOAA.
Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission implemented new regulations in 2008 designed to reduce fishing pressure on female crabs. These changes are expected to reduce the amount of crabs taken to near the target level.