WASHINGTON - It's being called the worst blue crab season in 20 years.
Last winter, the Chesapeake Bay was fully stocked with blue crabs. But now, the population is depleted and retailers are having to pull them from other states to bring them to the table.
At Jesse Taylor Seafood on the Southwest Waterfront, manager Stan Kiser agrees it's the worst blue crab season he's seen. Every crabber is pulling in fewer bushels, he says.
"Instead of dealing with two or three people, you have to deal with 10 people to get the amount that you need," Kiser says.
But the demand is still high. So, Jesse Taylor's as well as other wholesale markets and restaurants are pulling their blue crabs in from out of state and charging the consumer more.
"As far north as Delaware and as far south as Florida," Kiser says.
"We're experiencing this scarcity of crabs from Florida to New Jersey and the whole East Coast as far as commercial crabbing for blue crabs," says Jack Brooks, president of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association.
Blue crabs are fighting to survive for a number of reasons, Brooks says. Their natural habitat -- grasses that grow in the bay -- are thin, giving them little place to hide. Pollution levels increased in the bay after major storms like Hurricane Sandy and Irene forced runoff into the watershed.
Finally, one of the blue crabs' natural predators, the striped bass, which is protected by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is thriving, Brooks says.