The Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey, carried out by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, revealed an increase in blue crabs from 227 million in 2022 to 323 million in 2023. Spawning-age female crabs also showed a significant rise from 97 million in 2022 to 152 million in 2023, exceeding the management threshold of 72.5 million crabs.
Similarly, adult male crabs doubled from 28 million to 55 million in the same period.
Despite these encouraging numbers, the recruitment rate remains low, with no strong year class observed since 2019.
Influenced by various environmental factors, blue crab reproduction remains inconsistent, with juvenile crab numbers remaining below average for the last four years. This prompted the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee to plan for a new stock assessment to refine their understanding of the species’ ecology and possibly revise management reference points.
This process will begin later this year, in collaboration with the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Meanwhile, the Blue Crab Industry Advisory Committee will offer guidance to maintain the health and sustainability of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population. The Winter Dredge Survey, ongoing since 1990, collects data from 1,500 sites across the Chesapeake Bay, and results are annually reviewed for consistent management efforts.
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