Monday, April 26, 2010

Hip Hip Horray for the BLUE CRAB!
Photo: Steven Antholis

Government officials in Virginia and Maryland are ecstatic over reports showing the Chesapeake Bay's blue crab population has rebounded as the result of a conservation program implemented in 2008. "It's the best news in 10 years," executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. To give you a head count, the population has spiked 60 percent since last year, bringing the total blue crab count to 658 million.

Blue crab stocks had declined to such low levels by 2008 that the U.S. Department of Commerce declared the fishery a federal disaster area. Still, crabbers largely resisted rebuilding measures, which included the elimination of winter dredging. The Chesapeake held 852 million of them in 1993. But, like oysters, shad, sturgeon and rockfish before them, their numbers dropped. In 2008, Virginia and Maryland lowered the number of female crabs that could be taken at certain times of the year, with the aim of reducing the overall harvest of females by 34 percent. Virginia also banned dredging crabs out of their winter burrows to sell -- a practice that captured pregnant females. Both states said they were reluctant to ease these rules now, wanting to make sure the crabs' comeback is here for good.

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