ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ/AP) — If you have a taste for blue crabs, population estimates show the Chesapeake will deliver this season.
But as Alex DeMetrick reports, the Chesapeake Bay won’t be delivering quite as many.
This past winter, state biologists spent months trying to get an estimate on the number of crabs in the bay. The winter dredge survey, a key measure of the health of the Chesapeake’s crab population, found the crabs are at the second highest level since 1997. This year the crab population stands at 460 million crabs. That’s down from 658 million in 2010. But it’s still almost double the record low of 249 million in 2007. It’s also well above the target for the third year in a row.
“While our population isn’t at the level it was last year, the numbers do represent progress compared to where we were a few years ago,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.
“What we have are still a healthy abundance of spawning crabs, which is great, that’s what we’re looking for. That’s what we’re managing for,” said Lynn Fegley DNR Fisheries.
Lower numbers are still considered good, given what happened this past winter. A sudden freeze in early December hit Maryland crabs hard, killing off 31 percent of the adult population. That’s compared to 11 percent last year.
Authorities say strict harvest limits helped make sure the crab population was not decimated over the winter. Harvest limits were put in place after previous surveys found a sharp drop in crab numbers.
The dredge survey is conducted by Maryland and Virginia and is the most comprehensive look at the bay’s crab population.
While the crabs are not unlimited, there should be plenty of crabs to go around this summer. What the state survey can’t predict is what crabs will cost you this summer, although with fuel prices high, odds are they won’t be cheap.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)