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DNR Survey: Chesapeake Bay crab population reaches 14-year low

Posted at 12:47 PM, May 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-24 19:07:41-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The 282 million estimated number of crabs in the Chesapeake Bay is at its lowest in 14 years, according to a Maryland Department of Natural Resources 2021 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey.

That's compared to last year's population of 405 million and 594 million the year before.

The number also negatively reflects the juvenile crab population which is at a 31-year low. Juvenile crabs are normally smaller than 2.4 inches.

One positive note is the increase of spawning age females at 158 million, which remains above the recommended threshold of 72.5 million.

Females bigger than 2.4 inches can potentially produce this year, which is an important indicator of the health of the stock.

The survey groups all crabs larger than 2.4 inches together and considers them harvestable for the upcoming year. They support the recreational and commercial fisheries throughout the summer.

The results of the winter dredge survey are based off the average number of crabs found within a 1,000 meter by 1,000 meter area of the bay.

Each year, a total of 1500 sites in waters deeper than 5 feet are randomly selected throughout the three regions of the bay including the Lower Bay (the mouth of the Chesapeake to Windmill Point, VA), Middle Bay (Windmill Point, VA to Cove Point, MD) and the Upper Bay (Cove Point to Pooles Island and all of the Bay's tributaries).