Good news for this year's crab population

KENT ISLAND, Md. (WMAR) - Good news for crab lovers. Despite a cold and long winter, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says the blue crab population remains healthy and sustainable.

The agency released its 2018 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey Wednesday.

It indicated the crab population in the Chesapeake Bay is at 371 million, which is down from last year's estimate of 455 million. The drop can be attributed to a 42 percent decrease in the spawning female stock so far this year and 35 percent of female crabs killed over the winter.

"Although the number of spawning-age females is down from last year, we are pleased to see that their abundance is well above the minimum safe number even with the winter weather and lackluster reproduction last year," Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee Chair Glenn Davis said in a press release. 

The survey also points out that the number of young crabs returning to the bay in 2018 has increased 34 percent.

"Last year we had very few young crabs entering the bay. Those juveniles grew through 2017 and endured this year's cold winter to become the 2018 class of spawning adults," said Davis.

While we might see a slow start to the harvest season, DNR says the young crab population will continue to grow and increase their numbers in midsummer. 

"Even with the erratic weather, which included snow in April,  the blue crab population remains well within parameters, showing that the state and our partners are managing the species well," said Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton.

In 2017, the crab harvest from the bay dropped slightly from 60 to 54 million pounds. However, it continued to operate at sustainable levels, especially for female crabs, according to the DNR.

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