A mild 2018-19 winter resulted in a surprising boost for blue crabs, according to a survey.
The 2019 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey caught wildlife officials somewhat off guard, as the Chesapeake Bay's population somehow increased a whopping 60 percent in just a year.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that male, female and juvenile populations all saw a jump, collectively sitting at an astounding estimated total of 594 million crabs.
"We are proud of our administration's strong record of skilled environmental stewardship, which begins with safeguarding the Chesapeake Bay," Hogan said. "Today's results are further proof and a shining example that our efforts to protect Maryland's blue crab population, while ensuring the health of our state's most important natural asset, have been successful."
The adult female population grew by about 190 million (29 percent) and adult males increased by about 80 million (38 percent). The juveniles increased from 167 million to 324 million.
"The female abundance of blue crabs is close to our target and the juvenile population is above average," said Natural Resources Fisheries Monitoring and Assessment Director Michael Luisi. "We expect a lot of variability in the blue crab population, and taking a conservative approach offers stability for the fisheries in the face of swings in abundance."
Wildlife officials were expecting a down year after poor juvenile crab numbers between 2017 and 2018.
The survey indicates that successful blue crab management could be the driving force in the strong year, as conservation efforts have aimed to allow more crabs to reach the spawning stock.
It also points to mild winters in Maryland and Virginia as prominent factors.
"The blue crab population is both healthy and thriving, which is great news for the entire Bay," said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. "Under Governor Hogan's leadership, these results are a clear indication of the effectiveness of our management plan for blue crabs, an iconic species that is essential to Maryland's economy and the Bay's ecosystem."
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