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Chesapeake Bay blue crab. (Photo: NOAA)

Chesapeake Bay crab numbers soar

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Monday, April 23, 2012, 06:10 (GMT + 9)

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has informed that the Chesapeake Bay's juvenile blue crab population is at its highest level ever and the overall blue crab population is at its highest level since 1993. However, the number of spawning-age females has dropped.

"Today's announcement marks four years in a row of progress to restore the blue crab,” he stated. “None of us can restore the blue crab alone – we're all in this together, and it will take all of us working together to achieve a better future for our crabs, our industry, recreational crabbers and crab-lovers across our State.”

The survey found that an estimated 764 million crabs spent this winter in the Bay, nearly 66 per cent more than last year, and a record high 587 million juvenile crabs versus last year's 207 million.

At the same time, there was a decline in the number of spawning-age females from 190 million to 97 million crabs.

Notably, the preliminary harvest numbers show that spawning-age females were not overfished. Scientists said they remain unsure if the number of adult females is actually lower or if the crustaceans moved outside of survey areas because of an extremely wet fall and warm winter, Delaware Online reports.

Preliminary estimates of the 2011 female harvest are below the target of 25.5 per cent, reiterating that management measures are effective at constraining the fishery to appropriate levels.

"The drop in abundance of spawning-age females is neither unusual nor unprecedented – in fact, we expect this type of variation in populations from year to year," clarified Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary John Griffin. “Meanwhile, it is our job to make sure that fishing occurs at an appropriate level, which we will continue to do."

DNR Fisheries Director Tom O'Connell  said the government will keep working with its stakeholders and advisory commissions to develop a sustainable harvest level equivalent to last year.

"The preliminary Bay-wide harvest for 2011 is estimated to be 67.3 million lb, again confirming that a robust industry can coexist with regulations designed to rebuild a self-sustaining, healthy blue crab population," he noted.

In 2011, O'Malley and members of the Maryland General Assembly passed bills that strengthened enforcement authority and penalties for certain violations of striped bass, oyster and blue crab rules. This year, the legislature passed a measure to increase efficiency, flexibility and accountability in Maryland's commercial fishing licence system and allow for cost recovery of some of the services provided to the commercial fishing sector.

Related article:

-
Crab numbers in Chesapeake Bay decline, but stock continues to improve

By Natalia Real
[email protected]
www.fis.com

Photo Courtesy of FIS Member  NOAA/NMFSborrar
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