Drastic Cuts in Maryland's Blue Crab Harvest Expected

Maryland will cut its female blue crab harvest by up to 40 percent this year to protect the declining population in the Chesapeake Bay, the Associated Press reported yesterday.

Maryland lawmakers laid out three scenarios this week - a 20 percent cut in the state's blue crab harvest, a 30 percent cut and a 40 percent cut.

The state is expected to set a size limit of 6.5 inches on female crabs, which would cut the harvest by 16 percent and save about 12 million to 15 million crabs. The plan also includes reducing bushel limits on female crabs and potentially closing the female crab harvest in October and the mature female crab harvest in April and May.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine are scheduled to outline a 2008 survey of the Chesapeake's blue crab population next week. Virginia has already announced tighter limits in its waters, such as a larger sanctuary and new limits on winter dredging.

Any regulations will be reviewed by crabbers before they're finalized in a few weeks.

Maryland's blue crab harvest last year was the second lowest on record since 1945; Virginia's was a record low. A 2007 survey revealed there are about 143 million blue crabs of reproducing age in the Chesapeake. Scientists are aiming for about 200 million.


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