KENT ISLAND, Md. (WJZ) — The number of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay has dropped steeply, according to an annual survey just released.

The winter dredge survey is an indication of the supply we expect this summer.

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Tim Williams has more.

The winter blue crab dredge survey shows mixed results.

“We had a decline in mature females last year and they’ve bounced back,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin. “But we have had a somewhat surprising marked decline in young crabs.”

In general, spawning-age females increased substantially, but low reproduction means fewer crabs in the bay. While the reason is not readily known, in the past, water quality, pollution and weather can kill off bay grass.

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“Those are the places crabs and other species can hide from predators,” said a DNR official.

But there’s another possibility, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“With the great abundance of young crabs we’ve had…crabs are cannibalistic so they may have started eating one anther,” Griffin said.

Every winter, Maryland and Virginia biologists dredge the bay’s bottom where crabs burrow into the mud. While the survey is not a census, it has proved a useful tool in setting projections.

“Abundance will be down but there’s still [we believe] gonna be sufficient crabs out there. Maybe a higher price for all the crab lovers,” Griffin said.

Maryland officials said they will work with the crabbing industry to reduce bushel limits by about 10 percent for female crabs this year.

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For more on the winter dredge survey, click here.

Tim Williams