Non-Profit Hopes To Help Rebuild Blue Crab Population - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Non-Profit Hopes To Help Rebuild Blue Crab Population

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TILGHMAN ISLAND, Md. - This year's long winter is hurting one of Maryland's biggest industries: crabbing.

A new study says the number of spawning-age female crabs has dropped below the minimum safe level, forecasting another hard summer for Watermen on the shore.

"Last year was a tough summer for us," says Talbot County waterman Jeff Harrison.

This year's crabbing season could be much more of the same.

An annual survey of the Chesapeake Bay shows 28 percent of all adult crabs have died.  The main culprit is apparently the long, cold winter apparently starved out the hibernating crustaceans.

It's something Morrison says waterman have noticed for months "the last month of the oyster season, we noticed crabs...you know...dying."

Another problem watermen have seen: less bay grass is leaving soft,shedding crabs more vulnerable.

"The crabs when they shed have nowhere to go to hide, and they're being eaten by other predators," says Harrison.

That's one of the reasons marine biologist, Kelley Phillips Cox is starting the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center on Tilghman Island.

"We're hoping that we will establish aquaculture alongside of the wild harvest," says Phillips Cox, "we're hoping that we can help restore the bay to productivity."

The center, based in an old oyster and crab house, plans to show teach people how the community can work together to help build up the bay.  

It's a cause close to Phillips Cox.  "I'm from a waterman family and I don't want to see that heritage go away," she says.

Harrison keeps a positive outlook on the upcoming crabbing season, "hopefully we can get through this summer."

There is some good news for young crabs, the number of juvenile crabs increased and last year's harvest remained at a safe level for the sixth year in a row.

 

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