Last week, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources released the results of the 2016 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey and the results are good for the second year in a row.
The overall crab population has increased for two years consecutively, including the number of spawning-age females. However, the number of females still remains below the target managers from Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission are aiming for.
Every December to March, teams of scientists from Virginia and Maryland conduct the survey at 1,500 different sites in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The crabs are dredged from the frigid bottom of the Chesapeake Bay, where they lie motionless during the cold winter months. Workers dredge the bottom in specified locations and the material is brought up to the surface. They simply count the number of crabs, which creates an accurate snapshot of the crab population throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay from year to year.
The winter dredge survey has been taken annually since 1990. Just looking at all the dips, blips and troughs on the line graph depicting the total number of crabs estimated in the Chesapeake Bay the last 27 years is enough to give a person a serious case of vertigo. The increase in population the last two years could be the start of a trend, but it’s too early to break out the champagne (or crab knockers) yet.