Despite blue crab population increase, watermen share struggles of crabbing season
CAMBRIDGE, Md. – After the Chesapeake Bay Program released a report that said the blue crab population had increased by 60 % in the Cheaseapke Bay, 47 ABC decided to check in with local watermen to see how their crabbing season was going so far.
“There’s been no crabs up the bay,” said Chesapeake Bay watermen Scott Todd.
“It depends on who you talk to and where they from and where they’re crabbing at. The guys up the bay, they’ve had it rough. It’s been a real, real slow start for them,” said another watermen, Bob Whaples.
Some watermen here on the shore say the heavy rain Delmarva saw earlier this year had a major affect on the beginning of the crabbing season.
“I think the rain and the colder weather slowed things down,” said Todd.
“It freshened the water up so much it shoved a lot of crabs further south of the bay,” said J.M. Clayton Seafood Company President, Jack Brooks.
But with some patience, they say things are slowly getting back to normal.
“The southern bay crabbers have had a really good spring. Now that we’re in the summer, the crabs are starting to move up this way and the local guys are doing much better now,” said Brooks.
But now there’s another battle their facing. Watermen say between the extreme heat and new crabbing regulations, they’re starting to lose time and money.
“Now the buyers want you to be in early because of the heat because they don’t want the crabs to die. We understand that. It just takes more time away and more money from the watermen’s pockets,” Whaples said.
As of Monday, local crabbers tell 47 ABC they now have to catch crabs that are at minimum the size of 5 1/4 inches instead of 5 inches. And unfortunately, the crabs they’re catching just aren’t big enough.
“Today I threw 90% of my crabs overboard that I caught so it makes it harder. Throwing these 5 inch crabs overboard is killing people from Dorchester County,” said Whaples.
But despite these challenges, crabbers here on the shore tell us they’ll do everything they can to make it through someway, somehow.
“It’s hard, but I guess we’ll get through it like we normally do,” said Whaples.
Officials add that blue crab populations can vary naturally from year to year, based on weather, water temperature and other environmental conditions, as well as on how many are caught.