Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Crabs in the News!

Bay Program, Annual blue crab report highlights need to maintain focus on female, juvenile blue crabs

Not much has changed dramatically for the Bay’s blue crabs since last year’s Blue Crab Advisory Report was released, say Chesapeake Bay scientists. The 2024 Blue Crab Advisory Report, just released by the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee, notes that while the population of juvenile crabs increased to 138 million from last year’s 116 million, the overall population dropped slightly from 323 million to 317 million.

Population numbers in the report come from the Winter Dredge Survey, which is conducted by Maryland and Virginia. The increase in the juvenile population is a positive step, but it is still at one of the lowest levels seen since the Winter Dredge Survey began in 1990.

Scientists who develop the Blue Crab Advisory Report also look at the previous year’s harvest data to analyze whether the harvest level leaves enough females in the Bay to help produce more juveniles, thus fueling the population. In 2023, roughly 25% of the female population was removed by fishing. This is below both the target (desired level) of 28% and the threshold (level at which action is needed) of 37%.

To be fair, we need to take 2% more women! 

The adult female blue crab population is estimated to be 133 million. That’s above the threshold of 72.5 million—but also below the target of 196 million.

With that in mind, the Blue Crab Advisory Report recommends that the blue crab resource managers and decision makers in Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River continue the precautionary measures they have implemented in recent years that focus on protecting enough mature females and juveniles to maintain a healthy spawning stock. The report also suggests the jurisdictions keep an eye on the male population as well. This is because the percent of the male population that has been harvested has exceeded 34% (the “conservation trigger level”) several times in recent years.

Bay Journal, Virginia moves to end 16-year ban on dredging for crabs during winter

Virginia’s fishery managers have lifted the longstanding ban on dredging for blue crabs during the winter in the Chesapeake Bay, a seismic policy shift that drew strong criticism from their Maryland counterparts and conservationists.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted 5–4 on June 25 to repeal the 16-year prohibition on winter dredging. The board is expected to reconvene in September to consider staff recommendations on how to implement the fishery. The new season could open as early as this December.

“It’s a stopgap to keep our industry moving and keep our waterman working during those winter months,” said Zach Widgeon, a VMRC spokesman. But, he added, “this is not us turning loose a fleet of boats to go out winter crab dredging right now. [Repealing the prohibition] opens up that dialog for our staff to go ahead and find these answers out.”

 The Wombat has Rule Five Sunday: All American Girl up and running at The Other McCain.

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