Blue crab shortage on the eastern shore causes a bump in the road for seafood industry

MARYLAND – A recent survey found that there are only 282 million blue crabs currently in the Chesapeake Bay, that’s according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, 2021 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey. “We’ve been through this before many times. Sometimes crabbing starts early, sometimes it don’t,” says Bob Whaples, President of the Dorchester County Waterman Association.

When crabbers first saw the survey, they say they thought it was good news since there would reportedly be an abundance of female crabs. However, that doesn’t change the fact that there are a significantly lower amount of juvenile crabs. Crab experts say, this is creating a major shortage throughout the state. “We were kind of unsure what was happening but we know that it’s been very well behind and we didn’t really understand why,” says Josh Parker, owner of TL Morris Seafood in Cambridge, MD.

Crab experts also tell us, they’ve dealt with shortages before but this current shortage is leaving many scratching their heads. Parker says, this is definitely going to affect the cost. “Unfortunately for the time being, it means that crab prices will probably be higher specifically for males until we get a shed in because for now, there’s just no bigger crabs out there,” says Parker.

However Whaples says he has an inkling as to what may be the problem, “The weather has a lot to do with it and mother nature. She pretty much tells you what you’re gonna do and what you’re not gonna do.” He adds, “I think there’s plenty of crabs around out there, it’s just they haven’t had the best opportunity to do what they do best. They’re not going to bite in this type of weather.”

Although this could pose a problem for the seafood industry, many crabbers say they’re optimistic things will turn around eventually. “That’s happened before and we’ll get through it and keep right on going like we always have,” says Whaples.

Many of those in the seafood industry say they want to remind customers to be patient and wait for the crabs to come. However, crab experts do add, with prices going up, that will help the seafood industry compensate for the lack of crabs. However, they say they’re still hoping this shortage doesn’t go past two months.

Seafood restaurants want to remind customers to also call ahead to check on availability and prices, as they deal with the current shortage.

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