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Concern remains despite uptick in Chesapeake Bay blue crab population

Crab population survey
Posted at 2:58 PM, May 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-21 09:30:49-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Some signs of progression for the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population.

The estimated 323 million crabs currently in the bay presents an uptick from a 33-year low of 227 million in 2022.

Maryland's Department of Natural Resources revealed the findings Thursday in their annual Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey.

It shows the number of spawning age female crabs increased from 97 million crabs last year to 152 million crabs in 2023.

Meanwhile the adult male crab population rose from 28 million to 55 million during that same time frame.

Although good news, some concern remains especially with the juvenile crab population.

That number has remained below average for the past four years, despite the 2023 count (116 million) rising by 15 million over the last year.

“We are encouraged by the increases in adult crab abundance, but we need to be vigilant given the ongoing low recruitment numbers,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fishing and Boating Services Acting Director Lynn Fegley. “We haven’t seen a strong year class since 2019 despite maintaining the spawning stock at a level capable of producing one.”

The State cites various potential reasons for this, including oceanic conditions, available nursery habitat, and predation.

To help curb the issue, a new stock assessment will be conducted later this year allowing fishery managers to review crab ecology and make revisions where needed.

For more information on this year's survey, click here.