A while ago we saw news trumpeted in the Bay world that the crab survey showed that female crabs were at record levels. However, we also pointed out the footnote in the story, that juvenile crabs, the crabs necessary to sustain the population was not doing nearly as well:
Chesapeake Bay crabbers will likely face some harvest restriction this season to protect future generations of the iconic crustacean, a move managers say is necessary because of the low population of juveniles.
Fishery managers for Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission all say they are considering shortening the season and imposing stricter limits on the harvest of female crabs. They are not proposing changes in male crab catches.
News of harvest cuts surprised some crabbers at Maryland’s Blue Crab Industry Advisory Committee last week. The latest winter dredge survey results released in April showed the highest number of female crabs in the 28-year history of the annual count. Female crabs clocked in at 254 million, a 31 percent increase over last year.
But the Baywide survey, which counts the crabs in more than 1,000 locations as they burrow in the mud, estimated there were 125 million juvenile crabs in the Chesapeake, a 54 percent decrease from the 271 million found in 2016. That is the lowest tally since 2013 — a year when crabbers also had their catch curtailed — and one of the five lowest estimates since 1990, managers said.So are crabs doing well or not? That is the question.
As a result, managers are expecting a robust harvest for the first half of this year, fueled by the large number of adults now in the Bay. But catches of the Chesapeake’s most valuable seafood will need to be curtailed later in the year to protect the smaller number of juvenile crabs as they reach market size.
Maryland and Virginia are both expected to decide by the end of June on harvest restrictions, which will take effect for the remainder of the 2017 season. The Potomac River commission will discuss its plan at its June 1 meeting, executive secretary Martin Gary said.
Wombat-socho has "Rule 5 Sunday – The Heat Is On" ready for your viewing pleasure at the Other McCain.