BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Crabbers are reporting a sharp shortage in their catch this season. With the Fourth of July rush on the crustaceans right around the corner, restaurants are scrambling to cover the demand.

Gigi Barnett has more on what’s causing the shortfall.

This is the season for crabs and customers to flood into Jesse Lowers’ Crab Shack and Fish Market in Essex. The customers are coming…the crabs, not so much.

“There’s definitely been a shortage and you have to order crabs early for that reason,” said Lowers.

That’s what Lowers is telling his customers: order early, especially with the Fourth of July holiday coming up in a few days. Demand will be high, forcing crabbers to scrape the bottom of the barrel to supply.

Lynn Fegley is with the Department of Natural Resources. She confirms the shortage crabbers are seeing. Another reason for the shortage is the warm spring, which caused a widespread craving for the crustaceans.

“The adult crabs, the big crabs that were present in the bay at the beginning of the seasons, there are fewer of them now because they’ve been fished on,” Fegley said.

Over the winter, the Department of Natural Resources surveyed the number of crabs in the bay. It’s something they do every year. This year, they found a record number of crabs but many of them are juveniles and too small to take home. That’s also factoring into the shortage.

“When you have all these very young crabs in the bay to start the season, it won’t be until the summer or fall when they grow to a size that they can be harvested,” Fegley said.

The Department of Natural Resources says watermen down the bay are doing quite well. It’s the crabbers north of the Bay Bridge who are seeing the shortage.

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