A new scientific assessment of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population shows that significantly more work needs to be done to rebuild the stock to sustainable levels.
The assessment, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, reveals that the blue crab stock was more depleted than originally thought and therefore will take longer to rebuild.
However, the stock has increased substantially in response to three years of management actions by Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, according to the assessment.
“The crab stock is improving throughout the Bay. Collectively, we have made a lot of progress over the past three years. But this new science indicates we still have a way to go to achieve our goal of having a biologically stable stock with a robust harvest,” said Jack Travelstead, Virginia’s Fisheries Chief.
The assessment sets a new healthy abundance level of 215 million female crabs, with overfishing occurring if 34 percent of the female crabs are harvested in a year.
Until now, fishery managers used an interim target of 200 million total adult crabs as the threshold of a healthy stock. Overfishing was considered to be occurring if 53 percent of adult crabs were harvested in a year. Regulations were established to meet these benchmarks, which were based on 2005 data.
For perspective, fishery managers have only come close to achieving the new assessment’s female abundance level three times during the past 22 years: in 2010, 1993 and 1991.
The new, more stringent assessment of the crab stock’s health will allow fishery managers to set more precise female harvest limits to fully rebuild the stock.
“This is a sea-change in how we will manage the fishery," Travelstead said, adding that Virginia is not likely to relax blue crab harvest restrictions in the near future.
“The new safe female abundance level and overfishing threshold will dictate how the fishery is managed in the years to come,” said Tom O’Connell, director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service.
The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee will meet in September to consider the new assessment, examine data and provide management recommendations to Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission.
The blue crab stock assessment took three years to complete and represents the best available science on the stock’s lifespan, gender, size distributions and reproductive capabilities.
Read and download the full blue crab stock assessment from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s website.
“Video guy” Matt and I hop in his truck one Monday morning. It is 85 degrees outside (and it’s only 9 a.m.), and although an air conditioned office can offer some relief, Matt’s idea sounds much better. Today’s adventure? Chasing waterfalls. (That’s right, just like that TLC song, circa 1995).
Annapolis has plenty of water, but most of it is too still and too calm (although, as a newcomer to the area, I am constantly surprised by the number of bridges I cross on my daily errands). We are headed to Cunningham Falls State Park in the Catoctin Mountains, an area just where the farmland surrounding Route 15 meets the Appalachians.
Before I know it, we have left the bustle of the DC-Baltimore-Annapolis area behind and we are climbing up a hill so steep that other hikers are using some sort of ski-pole-like device to help them grab the terrain. Gigantic rocks surround us on both sides. They were probably formed during some Ice Age, Matt and I decide – a dramatic environmental event that has left its remnants for us to climb! It’s not long before I am covered in sweat.
Eventually, the terrain levels out and we hear the sound of water…running water!
I rush towards it, following Matt down the path. He stops me short, making a SHHH! signal. He is taking photos of two pileated woodpeckers. The birds are larger than I had expected, and there are two them, pecking away at a log. It is a rare opportunity for me to run into a creature in its natural state like this, and we shoot away (with the camera, that is).
We are joined by others at the falls, most of them children. I feel like one as I crawl up the gigantic rocks, which have been smoothed out by years of water running over them. The water is trickling down from somewhere I cannot see, but it is clearer than any water I’ve seen in a long time. I take off my shoes and soak it up. This beats air conditioning.
On our way home, we pass farm stand after farm stand, and with a little bit of memory from my college days (Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md.) and a little luck, we find our way to a few local orchards. One displays a “calendar” of pears and apples that are scheduled to appear; I make note of “pink lady” and promise the lady selling us peaches that I will be back.
Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund Advisory Committee is accepting applications for nearly $308,000 in grant funding for Chesapeake Bay-related education and restoration activities. The funding is from sales of Virginia’s “Friend of the Chesapeake” license plates.
Last year, 58 grantees received approximately $312,000 in funding. Since 1996, the state has awarded nearly $6 million.
Two types of project proposals will be accepted: projects that increase public awareness about Chesapeake Bay restoration, and action-oriented projects that help restore and conserve the Bay.
The deadline for submitting a proposal for the 2012 grant is October 1, 2011. Grants will be awarded in May-June 2012.
For more information, visit the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund Advisory Committee’s website.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has launched a new website, http://buoybay.noaa.gov, for its Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS).
CBIBS is a network of observation buoys along the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail. The buoys provide real-time weather data and historic information about John Smith's adventures during his 1607-1609 voyages. There are a total of 10 buoys in the Bay and the Susquehanna, Patapsco, Potomac, Rappahannock and James rivers.
The new CBIBS website offers better data downloads, a "buoy news" section, featured users and the ability to bookmark specific buoy pages. iPhone users can also download a smart buoy app.