The U.S. Department of Commerce has declared a commercial fishery failure for the Chesapeake Bay blue crab fishery after finding a dramatic downturn in the soft shell and peeler segments of the region's crab industry.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the harvest value of soft shell crabs in Maryland and Virginia has declined by 41 percent since the late 1990s, which has had a significant impact on the region’s economy and watermen who harvest blue crabs.
The disaster declaration comes after the governors of Maryland and Virginia implemented emergency regulations this spring to reduce the female blue crab harvest by 34 percent. Pollution, habitat loss, lack of prey and an overabundance of predators are all factors that have contributed to the blue crab decline.
The disaster declaration is an important step toward eligibility for federal aid for Maryland and Virginia watermen as the states work to rebuild the Bay’s blue crab population.
A disaster declaration is issued when the Department of Commerce determines that a decline in the harvest of a fish or shellfish species is a commercial fishery failure. For the blue crab fishery, NOAA Fisheries Service analyzed economic and biological information provided by Maryland and Virginia, as well as from NOAA scientists and economists.
Visit NOAA’s website for more information about the blue crab disaster declaration.