The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is cutting back crabbing season in the Chesapeake Bay after a survey showed a slight decrease in the blue crab population.
DNR said harvesting will close on Nov. 20. They said the decision to modify the closing date was based on the results of the latest Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey and discussions with the Blue Crab Industry Advisory Committee and Tidal Fisheries Advisory Commission.
“Since the release of the winter dredge survey, experts have cautioned that a scarcity of juvenile crabs could result in more challenging harvest conditions later this year and next,” said Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton. “This decision is the result of partners in science and industry developing consensus to achieve what is best for the health and ongoing productivity of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab fishery.”
The dredge survey showed a surge in spawning-age female crabs to the highest level in the 28 years of the survey. DNR said because conditions for growth of larval blue crabs has not been optimal, a decrease in the number of young crabs this year was seen.
While the adult female segment increased by 31 percent, the male segment decreased by 16 percent.
The DNR said he healthy abundance of adult crabs in the Chesapeake Bay bodes well for crabbers in the first half of the 2017 crabbing season (April-July). When the young crabs begin to enter the fishery in midsummer, their scarcity may result in more challenging conditions later this year and next.
The 2016 baywide crab harvest increased for the third consecutive year for a total harvest of just less than 60 million pounds, according to DNR.