As if this summer of shortages and exorbitant prices wasn’t shaping up to be unpleasant enough. Now, according to the publication, Bay Journal, the Chesapeake’s blue crab population is at the smallest number ever recorded since scientists began tracking the species in 1990.
According to the Journal, a winter dredge survey done by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Virginia Institute of Marine Science that was released May 19 found an estimated 227 million crabs in the Bay. The previous low was 270 million crabs back in 2004. That’s a significant drop.
Even more concerning, say fishery managers, the plummeting numbers are happening at the same time as a three-year streak of below-average reproduction rates. And, no one has any idea what’s behind the plunging numbers.
No one may know why it’s happening. But one thing you can be sure of is that all three jurisdictions responsible for regulating the Chesapeake’s crab catch — the Maryland DNR, Virginia MRC and Potomac River Fisheries Commission — will introduce strict new harvest limits in the next few weeks. Expect prices to skyrocket.
That’s bad news for crab lovers everywhere — from the small Virginia towns that rely on revenues from annual crab festivals to the thousands of people who simply like to enjoy a bushel of steamed crabs with friends and family.
— Robin Beres, editor