Chesapeake Bay

Maryland Limits Crabbing Due to Low Population

The number of crabs in the Chesapeake Bay is at its lowest in 30 years

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With crabs in the Chesapeake Bay at the lowest level in 30 years, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources will limit the number of crabs commercial watermen can bring to shore.

“There’s going to be a decrease in the total number of bushels that can be harvested for female crabs, and this year for the first time, there’s also going to be bushel limits implemented for adult male crabs,” said Allison Colden of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The limit depends on the type of license – 15 bushels a day for big operators, less for other licenses. The rules are for August and September and the crab season has been cut short by two weeks.

Waterman Justin Carpenter said the timing of the limit is bad because August and September are when they make up for the slow spring start.

“It’s definitely a hit when we need it the most,” he said.

Robert Howes, a third-generation Maryland waterman, will have an eight-bushel limit come August. He’s taking a wait -and-see approach.

“Maybe it’s not going to hurt us as bad as we think because we’re not catching those limits now,” he said.

For restaurants, supply has been lean for a couple of years and prices are high. Dockside in Tracy’s Landing hasn’t been able to serve hard crabs for a while.

“We get tons of people that call. They’re, like, if you get them, let me know,” said Lynn Nutwell of Dockside. “They’re leaving phone numbers, but we’re just not able to get them.”

Maryland will cut recreational crab limits in half July 1 to just one bushel per boat.

Virginia is also proposing a shorter crabbing season and reducing daily catch limits.

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