blue crab shortage in Maryland; Less in Chesapeake this summer

Come summer, the Maryland Blue Crab becomes a signature part of any dish. But watermen have a hard time finding enough of these crabs.

Annapolis, Maryland – As the July 4th weekend approaches, many may be planning to head to the beach to enjoy some Maryland crabs. But a recent survey suggests there may be fewer of these cancers available.

“Cancers are rare,” said Bill Serbo, M.D., a board member for the Watermen’s Association of Maryland.

Typically, he said, he might catch a bushel of crabs for every 20 crab pots on a “decent” day. Right now, he said, it’s more like a scoop per 100 crab bowls.

He said, “Everyone says the same thing. We don’t see any crabs. We don’t see many crabs.”

The most recent estimate from the Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey found that there are an estimated 227 million crabs currently living in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. This may sound like a big number, but it’s actually the lowest level ever recorded in the survey, which first began in 1990.

Just a few years ago in 2019, a survey indicated there were nearly 600 million Chesapeake crabs.

Alison Colden of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said they saw a particularly worrying decline in the number of male blue crabs.

“The number of males is record low. A decrease in the number of females and a continuation of an alarming three-year trend below the average in the number of juvenile cancers seen in this survey,” she said.

To deal with this shortage of blue crabs, the Department of Natural Resources has issued new restrictions, including on mentioning blue crabs, which were previously unregulated.

A DNR spokesperson described the biggest changes as follows:

Recreational anglers:

  • “The bushel limit for a boat has been reduced to one bushel regardless of the number of licenses on the boat.”

Commercial fishermen:

  • Shorter season The hunting season for male crab will end on November 30th versus December 15th.

  • Bushel limits are set male crabs during August and September; “This is the first-ever bushel limit on commercial fishermen.”

  • bushel limits female crabs Reduced from 2021 limits for July and October

As for what explains the low number of cancers, Colden said there are likely a number of factors.

“We think this could be a combination of things,” she said. “Like poor water quality, loss of underwater grass beds that are important nursery habitats for juvenile crabs, or increased predation from things like invasive blue catfish.”

Decreased supply of crabs may have an effect on the bottom line, as sellers of these crabs may have to raise prices.

“Until the crabs start biting,” Serbo said. “The prices are going to be high. It’s the way you work.”

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