ANNAPOLIS, Md. - This year's blue crab population in the Chesapeake Bay has the highest estimated number of spawning female crabs in the 28-year history of the annual bay-wide blue crab winter dredge survey, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday.
Officials say results from the 2017 blue crab dredge survey indicate that while the estimated crab population as a whole is down from last year, the numbers remain stable.
"Despite the modest number of young crabs, the total population remains stable and the number of spawning age females, a major scientific benchmark for the health of the species, rose," Director of DNR Fishing and Boating Services David Blazer said.
DNR says the total number of crabs estimated to be in the Chesapeake this year is approximately 455 million, with 254 million of those being spawning aged females. Fisheries managers say this exceeds the target level for spawning females set at 215 million. The last time that target was reached was in 2010, DNR said.
Despite this positive sign, the adult male blue crab population reportedly declined by 16 percent.
Blazer says the results of this year's survey will be discussed with both the Blue Crab Industry Advisory Committee and the Tidal Fisheries Advisory Commission to determine if any changes should be made to the blue crab season's length or blue crab catch limits.
According to DNR, the winter dredge survey has been conducted each year since 1990 as a collaboration between the Maryland DNR and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The number of crabs burrowed in the mud at 1,500 locations throughout the bay is tallied and used to estimate the overall population, officials said.
"We're going to take these data points and various information and we are going to go through our committee and commission process to see what changes are recommended, or any sort of alteration or changes," said Stephen Schatz, Communications Director at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Schatz went on to say while there can be no predictions at this point for changes in rules or regulations, any changes to fishing laws will not come until after July 1.
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