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Chesapeake Female Crabs Outnumber Males In Bay

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(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

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EDGEWATER, Md. (AP) — Male crabs have their pick of mates in the Chesapeake Bay this year.

Strict harvest restrictions designed to protect the bay’s crab population have pushed the ratio of females to males, also known as Jimmies, to nearly 3-to-1, said Tuck Hines of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Hines, who plans to study how that may affect the population, was one of a number of scientists who spoke Tuesday in Edgewater at a seminar hosted by the center to announce funding for bay fisheries research.

Maryland and Virginia imposed harvest restrictions in 2008 that focused on protecting female crabs and the once-dwindling population has since rebounded, although females now greatly outnumber males.

“So, there are not very many males around and those males are mating repeatedly,” Hines said.

Females mate only once and then can produce six to 10 broods in lifetime, typically four to five in the Chesapeake Bay, while males mate with multiple partners. However, it’s not clear how the population is affected when the number of partners increases for male crabs, Hines said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay Office co-hosted the seminar with the Smithsonian center.

Other grants announced included research by Chris Dungan of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, who is studying a virus that infects soft-shell clams. The soft-shell clam was an important commercial species with yearly harvests of a half million bushels until Tropical Storm Agnes devastated the industry in 1972. The harvest rebounded in the 1980s until a parasite infected the opulation, dropping harvests to under 2,000 bushes a year, the DNR said.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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