Female Crabs Outnumbering Males May Be A Problem In Chesapeake Bay

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Out of the Chesapeake’s many problems, add sexual imbalance. It’s become a real possibility among the bay’s blue crabs.

Alex DeMetrick reports that efforts to save Maryland’s favorite crustacean may be leaving male crabs in short supply.

Alive and kicking…

“We need many more males to help fertilize the eggs in the females,” said Smithsonian researcher Tuck Hines.

He’s hoping to find out just how many.

“What we’re trying to determine is what’s enough males to mate with all those females? How much sperm do they need to fertilize those eggs?” Hines said.

Because in the Chesapeake, there are approximately three female blue crabs for every male.

Hines says eight males for every female is the best sexual balance.

There are two reasons why. Male crabs are a favorite among consumers. And a few years back, the crab population was plunging.

“In 2008 all of the jurisdictions in Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River really moved aggressively to protect female crabs. And it’s worked brilliantly,” said Lynn Fegley, DNR Fisheries.

The population and the catch roared back, but not enough to ease restrictions on females.

“As a result we now have a lot more females than males in the population,” Hines said.

So far state researchers have not seen an impact on reproductive rates, but they’re following the Smithsonian’s research.

“Making sure we don’t get things out of whack, so we’re going to be anxious to see the results,” Fegley said.

If reproduction drops, that could mean more restrictions on watermen, who have already taken a big hit.

“We hope they keep rebounding and coming on stronger and stronger for us,” said Troy Luongo, waterman.

The Smithsonian study is being funded by a federal grant and will take at least a year to complete.

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