The Atlantic Blue Crab, Chesapeake Bay’s signature crustacean, has been through tough times in the last 20 years. Some recent improvement has been credited to restrictions on harvesting females. Yet Virginia still allows the harvest of egg-bearing females, something Maryland banned back in 1917. The reasons why seems to be wrapped up in economics.

In late June Ida Hall, a commercial waterman, was pulling crab pots from a creek just inside Virginia’s western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. As she sorted large from small male crabs she also tossed egg-bearing females, called sponge crabs, into a separate basket.

The eggs will drop off or be removed at the picking house, never to hatch and add to the bay’s crab population. Hall will earn about 37.5 cents a pound for her crabs.

"The market has a tendency to drive what we harvest if it’s legal to harvest them," says Hall.
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