A new study suggests blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay Shed are seeing a huge spike in population.
This study showed a positive year of growth in the stock of the Chesapeake Bay crab population, which foreshadows a better harvest in 2016.
The study determined the bay-wide crab population to be 553 million, which is a 35-percent increase from last year. The total population of blue crabs found in the watershed was estimated at 411 million in 2015. Here's more about the study, which has been jointly conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Virginia Institute of Marine Science since 1990:
The winter dredge survey is the only bay-wide fishery independent effort to estimate the number of blue crabs living in the Chesapeake Bay. The winter dredge survey produces information that is essential for the management of the species, such as an estimate of the number of crabs over-wintering in the bay and the number of young crabs entering the population each year. Also calculated is the estimated number of females that could spawn within the year, which is an important indicator of future spawning potential.
"Due to a milder winter, favorable currents and tides, and wise bay-wide management measures, the Maryland crab population continues to rebound and strengthen," Fisheries Service Director Dave Blazer said. "With an increase in abundance and steady recruitment, we fully anticipate a robust crab season this year."
"We are in a much better place than we were," said Thomas Miller, director of the state's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons. But he told the Baltimore Sun the crab population isn't yet "up to consistent levels of abundance that will support a sustainable fishery into the long term."
The study said biologists used "dredge equipment to capture, measure, record and release blue crabs at 1,500 sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay" watershed from December 2015 through March 2016. The study also documented improvements in all age groups of male and female Chesapeake Bay blue crabs.
Experts and fishermen alike are pleased with this encouraging news about the growth of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab, given good hauls on opening day this past April 1, 2016.
It's encouraging to see Chesapeake Bay blue crabs spawning numbers increase. Let's hope this vast body of water nearby will continue to thrive and exist.