Chesapeake blue crab population soars again

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The Chesapeake Bay blue crab population surged again, two years after Virginia and Maryland implemented stringent restrictions on crabbing.

The blue crab population grew 60 percent to 658 million crabs — the highest level since 1997 — according to an annual winter dredge survey conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).

“Our commercial crabbers’ jobs and the waterman’s way of life now appear to be on the path to sustainability,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a statement. “This is great news for everyone who makes their living by crabbing and for everyone who enjoys genuine Chesapeake Bay crab cakes and she-crab soup.”

However, McDonnell warned that restrictions on crabbing will continue to bolster the bay’s blue crab populations. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission passed emergency restrictions on crabbers in 2008, including prohibiting winter dredging for crabs and shortening the fall crabbing season. Two years ago the annual survey showed there were 298 million crabs in the bay. Last year, the population had grown to 403 million crabs.

The survey showed a doubling of juvenile crabs in the past year. Last year’s survey had shown a large increased in the number of adult crabs, which helped make crab reproduction this year the sixth highest in the 21 years the survey has been conducted.

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