By Stetson Miller

BALTIMORE, Md. (WJZ) – The Chesapeake Bay blue crab is down 30 percent this year according to an annual survey.

The 2021 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey, conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Virginia Institute of Marine Science, estimates that there are 282 million blue crabs in the bay, down from 405 million in 2020.

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DNR also estimates that the juvenile crab population is at its lowest level since the survey back in 1990.

The population decrease is already impacting crab restaurants in Baltimore.

“We can already see right now like a shortage on crab meat, it’s pretty much doubled in price now,” said Kim Gardner, a manager at L.P. Steamers in Locust Point.

The restaurant told WJZ that it’s been difficult to keep up with some of the demand for blue crabs.

“I haven’t had enough in stock lately to do carry out and people are getting upset that we can’t you know supply the needs of in-house and carry out,” said Gardner.

Prices are up for crabs Gardner says that will likely continue through the summer

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However, DNR Assitant Director Mike Luisi says the results are more of a mixed bag because the critical female population is up 

“Even though the population dropped we were happy with those results as far as our attempts at constraining the female harvest,” said Luisi.

Experts say the population decline can’t be attributed to any one issue.

And a decision on changes to catch limits, if any, could come over the summer.

But overall they say the blue crab population is still in a good place.

“The population is considered to be in a healthy place,” said Allison Colden

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Maryland Fishery Scientist for Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “What remains to be seen is how the juveniles will grow up and mature and survive this coming summer.”

Stetson Miller