A new assessment released Tuesday recommends how many females should be in the bay and how many can be taken to maintain a sustainable population. Biologists have previously said about 200 million adult crabs were needed to ensure a healthy population.So it sounds like as long as we don't have harsh winters in the future, the path we're on may be sustainable in the long run? That's good because we're unlikely to get new restrictions on the harvest next year:
The latest assessment released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends 215 million adult female crabs and a total population of 415 million adult crabs.
And when it comes to harvesting, the recommendations also are focused on females. The current recommendation says the population is overfished when 53 percent of adult crabs are taken and the target should be 46 percent, male or female.
The new assessment calls for 34 percent threshold of all female crabs and a 25.5 percent target.Regulators are trying to refine how to manage a crab population that has seesawed, approaching a billion in the early 1990s, but dropping to about quarter of that a decade later, and as few as 120 million adults.
Restrictions that began in 2008 included shortening the season and ending a winter dredge season in Virginia to protect hibernating pregnant females. Following those moves, the population rebounded to more than 650 million in 2010 before cold this past winter killed nearly a third of adult crabs.
Tom O’Connell, director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service, said significant changes are not expected in managing the 2012 harvest.Watermen, of course, rushed out to bad mouth the assessment, and blame any problem with crab fishing on water quality:
Marion East, a former waterman and boat mechanic in Crisfield, was more pessimistic.
“The water is filthy-looking. It’s just not a good year,” said East, who said the hot summer also has bay water temperature in the 90s in some places. Meanwhile, a wet spring flushed a lot of freshwater into the bay.
“Some places, the water, you hit it and it looks just nice, and some other places, you hit it and it looks like you have chocolate milk,” East said.