Md. blue crab population at 19-year high

Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay juvenile blue crab population is at its highest level on record, and the overall population is at its highest level in 19 years.

According to the results of the annual winter survey conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, an estimated 764 million crabs were in the bay this winter, nearly 66 percent more than last year. Juvenile crabs reached 587 million, nearly triple last year’s total of 207 million.

However, the survey results did show a decline in the number of spawning-age females, from 190 million to 97 million crabs. Despite the downturn, the population remains above the safe threshold level, according to the agency. Preliminary estimates of the 2011 female harvest are below the target of 25.5 percent, confirming that management measures have continued to be effective.

The preliminary bay-wide harvest for 2011 is estimated at 67.3 million pounds.

“Just a few short years ago, the future did not look bright for our blue crab population,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. “Our female crabs were being overfished, and our fishery was at risk of complete collapse. Today’s announcement marks four years in a row of progress to restore the blue crab. The kind of progress we’re making today really only happens when we work together. None of us can restore the blue crab alone. We’re all in this together, and it will take all of us working together to achieve a better future for our crabs, our industry, recreational crabbers and crab lovers across our state.”


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