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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: July 2008


Research Shows Drop in Bay Blue Crab Population

The population of spawning-age blue crabs in the Bay fell to 120 million in 2007-08, compared with 143 million in 2006-07, according to the 2008 Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Advisory Report. Both of these figures are below the interim target population of 200 million spawning-age crabs.

The report also shows:

  • The population of crabs more than five inches long remained lower than historic levels.
  • The number of juvenile blue crabs entering the population increased slightly from the previous year, but remained well below the average.
  • The abundance of mature females, or spawning potential, was also found to be below average.
The abundance of spawning-age crabs (age 1+) is a key indicator of the status of the blue crab stock and is used to determine if the population is overfished. (Tuaussi / Flickr)

The Blue Crab Advisory Report, developed by the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee, is based primarily on data from the 2007-08 baywide winter dredge survey. The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee includes fisheries scientists from universities, the states of Maryland and Virginia, and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service.

The abundance of spawning-age crabs (age 1+) is a key indicator of the status of the blue crab stock and is used to determine if the population is overfished.

In 2007, 43.5 million pounds of crabs were taken from the Bay -- the lowest recorded harvest since 1945. Based on the historical relationship between crab population and the following year’s harvest, the 2008 harvest was expected to remove about 67 percent of the Bay’s adult crab population.

In light of these figures, fisheries managers in Maryland and Virginia and at the Potomac River Fisheries Commission have implemented emergency regulations to reduce fishing pressure on female crabs. These changes are expected to reduce the amount of crabs taken from the Bay and help sustain a healthy crab population.

Keywords: blue crabs

Over $2.1 Million Awarded for Local Waterway Protection and Restoration Projects

Thirty-four organizations from across the Bay watershed have received more than $2.1 million from the Bay Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for projects that will protect 3,400 acres of land, restore approximately 15 miles of streams and plant more than 160 acres of marsh and wetland grasses.

Students from Tyler Elementary School in Washington, D.C. receive help planting a tree from students from the Cacapon Institute in West Virginia. The tree is part of the project to replace asphalt with grass, plants and trees at Tyler, which received a $50,000 Small Watershed Grant for the work.

The funding was awarded through the Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program, which provides grants to organizations and municipal governments working to improve the condition of their local watershed.

The 2008 Small Watershed Grants were announced at Tyler Elementary School in Washington, D.C., which will benefit from a $50,000 grant to install a 13,000-square-foot rain garden on its grounds. The rain garden will filter polluted runoff, integrate watershed education into school studies and provide a model of low-impact development techniques for other urban schools.

Also featured at the event was D.C. Greenworks, which received a $75,000 grant to work with the District Department of the Environment to develop a green roof subsidy and incentive program to increase the number of green roofs in the District of Columbia. The project will develop a green roof toolkit to educate homeowners and businesses about the benefits and financing of green roofs.

At last year’s Executive Council meeting, the District of Columbia agreed to champion green development by promoting the use of green roofs, urban trees and other green infrastructure to reduce polluted runoff. D.C. Department of the Environment Director George Hawkins participated in the grant announcement and spoke of the value of the D.C. projects to the city and health of the Chesapeake Bay and its local waterways.

Other 2008 Small Watershed Grant recipients include:

  • The Friends of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge will release sterilized, radio-collared rodents named nutria to allow scientists to track and eradicate invasive nutria populations on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
  • The Henrico County (Va.) Soil & Water Conservation District will provide 2,500 county residents with soil test vouchers to promote proper fertilizing and reduce nutrient runoff to the James River.
  • The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay will hold a biofuels summit to develop a strategy that integrates water quality concerns into developing the Chesapeake region’s biofuel industry.

View the full list or a map of 2008 Small Watershed Grant projects.

Since 1998, the Small Watershed Grants program has provided $20.8 million to support 555 projects. These grants have been used to leverage an additional $65.4 million from other funding sources, resulting in more than $86.2 million being invested in watershed restoration efforts.

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