BALTIMORE (WJZ)–It turns out a crab’s best friend might be a cop. That’s because the crab population is struggling in the bay.

Alex DeMetrick reports law enforcement is being called in for backup.

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Maryland’s Natural Resources Police are upping their usual enforcement efforts, coming to the aid of crabs.

“The resources are struggling and we believe it deserves as much attention as we can give it,” said George Johnson IV, Natural Resource Police.

Surveys estimate there are 69 million spawing-aged females in the bay–one million below the level needed to reproduce a robust population.

“We’re in high alert. We’re going to work to extend some extra protection [to] these female crabs,” said Lynn Fegley, DNR Fisheries.

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The effort has a double edged slogan: to alert commercial watermen and recreational crabbers to obey the rules. Throw back undersized crabs and follow restrictions on harvesting females.

Fines for violating crab regulations slide from low to high.

“It can be anywhere from $85 to $500 and on, depending if they’ve had a violation in the past,” said Maj. Jerry Kirkwood, Natural Resources Police.

“Rest assured, we will do everything possible to catch the violators,” Johnson said.

Because every crab that shouldn’t be caught counts toward a future harvest that police are sworn to protect.

Restrictions on catching female crabs increase as the season goes forward, and they begin migrating south to Virginia’s portion of the bay, where blue crabs spawn.

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