Blue crab conservation efforts pay off
After years of decline, it appears the blue crab–a most esteemed guest at summer picking tables–is back. The latest survey, released today by Gov. Bob McDonnell and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, shows they’ve returned in record numbers. This is on the heels of a report that crabs wintering in the bay this winter fared well due to unusually mild temperatures. According to a press release, the 2012 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey found the total population of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay has reached 764 million, due to four years of a bay-wide stock rebuilding program. That’s a 66 percent increase above 2011′s estimate of 460 million crabs, and is the highest level recorded since 1993. In fact, the bay-wide blue crab stock abundance is now more than triple the record low of 249 million, set in 2007, the year before the stock rebuilding program began.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Fisheries Director Bill Goldsborough had this to say about the report:
“The results of the latest blue crab survey are most heartening. Recruitment (the number of young crabs in the population) is the largest on record, and total abundance approaches levels we have not seen since the early 1990s. Clearly, the blue crab population continues to rebound, and that is great news for crabs, crabbers, and the Chesapeake Bay.
“It also validates the wise and cooperative management measures taken by Virginia and Maryland in recent years to restore the crab population. While numbers of adult female crabs are down, the female mortality rate is at or below the scientifically set target level, strong evidence that the current management measures are working and should be continued.”