ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland watermen will be able to catch more female crabs this fall.

The Department of Natural Resources announced the change Thursday, saying fisheries managers determined the increase won’t negatively impact the population, which is rebounding after a sharp decline.

The daily female catch limit between Sept. 1 and Nov. 10 will be increased two bushels to 12 for those with a Limited Crab Catcher License.

Licenses allowing larger catches will see comparable increases. The department had also been considering changing the season to take advantage of higher June crab prices. Harvesting of female crabs is prohibited June 1-15 and Nov. 11-Dec. 15.

All other commercial and recreational crabbing regulations for 2011, in both the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland’s coastal bays, remain the same.

The annual winter dredge survey this year showed a cold winter killed nearly a third of the bay’s adult crabs, but the population was still above the restoration target. The survey results showed the population at 460 million, down from more than 650 million in last year’s survey.

Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin said the department was pleased to permit a small increase for the commercial crabbing industry.

“Over the past three years, we have successfully transitioned from a virtually unregulated female crab fishery to a system that allows us to react to changes in the crab population,” Griffin said. “Going forward, we will continue to follow the advice of scientists and work with the crabbing industry to ensure that the crab harvest remains at sustainable levels.”

Harvest restrictions were put in place after previous surveys found a sharp drop in crab numbers. Virginia and Maryland cut the crab harvest by a third beginning in 2008. They also shortened the season and banned the dredging of hibernating pregnant females.

Despite the drop in this year’s survey, state officials noted the bay’s blue crab population is at its second highest level since 1997 and well above the restoration target population for the third year in a row.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (5)
  1. Dave says:

    Why is it legal to catch female crabs? I never understood that.

    1. Earl says:

      I guess for the same reason it is to catch male crabs!!!

  2. Bill says:

    Hurry and catch your crabs because these dumb as!!!!es will report the population is in decline by August and blame the farmers! The DNR is related OWE MALLEY.
    I wish the government could make up their mind. I wonder if the same idiots that are responsible for our government fiscal stability are the same ones counting the crabs? If so there may be a bushel left

  3. crabber says:

    Don’t freak out about something you know very little about. There is nothing wrong with catching females, just not the sponge crab.

    It very astute, however, not to trust DNR. In 1987 they changed the law to allow harvest of sponge crabs.

  4. koala girl says:

    Marylnad has not allowed the harvesting of sponge crabs – egg-laden females – for many years. Virginia, however, does allow it. They are sold to the picking houses. (Yes, those of you who buy crab meat by the pound are eating female crab.)

    It is not uncommon for a VA commercial crabber to take 100 or more bushels of sponge crabs a day. Multiply that by the number of crabbers, times 6 days (most crabbers crab 6 days a week) and it should be quite clear where a good portion of the problem lies. If VA would prohibit taking sponge crabs, like MD does, the population would rebound so fast the DNR would be begging people to crab to control it.

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