Md.'s blue crabs make a comeback
GRASONVILLE, Md. -- The Chesapeake Bay's blue crabs are making an extraordinary comeback, more than doubling their population in the two years since new limits were put on their harvest, officials say.
The crab, a key part of both the bay's ecosystem and the region's seafood economy, had been in a nosedive in the 2000s. Its population bottomed out under 300 million in 2007, after years of pollution and heavy fishing.
But this year, that number has risen to 658 million, officials said Wednesday. They credited new rules imposed by both Maryland and Virginia in 2008, which limited the harvest of female crabs; the mothers can spawn huge numbers of baby crabs apiece.
"The population is not only rebounding, but it is at its highest level in 10 years!" an exuberant Gov. Martin O'Malley said Wednesday morning, a bushel of red steamed crabs at his feet, at a news conference by the water here on the Eastern Shore.
State officials in Maryland compared the crabs' rebound to the bay's one great success story, the comeback of the rockfish. That fish, also called striped bass, had hit very low levels before a moratorium was imposed on catching it.
Maryland officials said they were not likely to loosen restrictions on the crab catch now, wanting to see whether the increase continues. They said that, despite the new limits on the catch -- which limited the number of females a given waterman could catch and ended the practice of dredging females from their winter burrows -- the harvest had actually increased in 2009.
The reason: There were just more crabs to catch.
"There are few days when you can actually ... say, 'You know what, this part of the Chesapeake Bay is getting better,' " O'Malley said. "This is one of those days."
-- David Fahrenthold
Washington Post editors
| April 14, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Tags: Chesapeake Bay, Crab, Eastern Shore of Maryland, Martin O'Malley, Maryland, Striped bass, Virginia
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