By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– It’s a numbers game that affects livelihoods to dinner tables in Maryland. And right now the count is on.

Alex DeMetrick went out on the Chesapeake Bay where scientists are counting crabs.

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Where the Honga River moves into the Bay in Dorchester County is just one of 750 locations where Maryland scientists go dredging for crabs each winter.

What they shake loose had been hibernating, which is perfect for counting crabs.

“We need an ideal situation where they are just stuck, and in place where we can gauge the accurate abundance count,” Chris Walstrum, a Department of Natural Resources biologist, said.

This is the twenty-second winter crab survey in the Chesapeake. After the population plummeted a few years ago, placing restrictions on females led to a rebound.

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“We’ve seen more crabs in the Bay than we have since the early years of the survey,” said Lynn Fegley of DNR Fisheries. “We’ve seen high abundances of spawning adults. We’ve seen high levels of recruitment, juvenile crabs.”

And that’s produced bigger harvests for watermen the last few years. As for what’s coming this year, there’s still a few more weeks of weighing, measuring and counting to do.

“So I can’t get anything distinct, true number-wise but the signs, they are encouraging,” Walstrum said.

Maryland’s count is only half of the survey. Virginia is doing the same thing in its part of the Bay and later this spring, both sets of numbers will be added up.

“So we’re hoping that we’re going to have good news,” Fegley said.

That will especially be true if the number of tiny juveniles add up and grow to legal size for harvesting.

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Last year, the survey placed the number of crabs in the Bay at about 450 million.