Based on the results of the 2013 winter dredge survey and estimates of the 2013 Bay-wide harvest, the Chesapeake Bay spawning-age female blue crab population is in a depleted state, although harvest continued at sustainable levels. Harvest was estimated at 23 percent, just below the target (25.5 percent) and well below the maximum number that can be taken (34 percent).
Why are blue crabs important to the Chesapeake Bay? Bruce Vogt from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains the iconic crustacean’s economic, ecologic and gastronomic value. Learn more about blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay Program’s online Field Guide.
April 2013: The Chesapeake Bay winter dredge survey is an annual count of the Bay’s blue crab population, and a critical component of blue crab management. The information gathered on abundance, young-of-the-year and spawning stock—those crabs that will mature enough to reproduce during the upcoming year—allows fisheries managers to set commercial and recreational harvest limits for the season ahead.
Closed captions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mvEE7ydXA
The Chesapeake Bay fishing industry holds tremendous commercial, cultural, and historic value. Perhaps no species is more closely associated with the Bay than the blue crab. Blue crabs support commercial and recreational fisheries across the region, but poor water quality, habitat loss, harvest pressure and natural predation can affect their continued health. Blue crab population levels inform how harvest regulations should or shouldn’t change if we are to maintain a sustainable blue crab stock.
A target abundance level of 215 million spawning-age female blue crabs was adopted in 2011. The current overfishing threshold is 34 percent of the spawning-age female population and the target is 25.5 percent.
The Chesapeake Bay blue crab stock is currently depleted, but overfishing is not occurring, according to the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Advisory Report and Figures. This report highlights the current status of the blue crab population and recommends continued work to sustain robust crab populations over the long term.
The report was developed by the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee (CBSAC), which includes scientists and representatives from the federal government, state governments and academic institutions. It is based on data collected in the Bay-Wide Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey (a cooperative effort between Maryland and Virginia) and on annual estimates of blue crab harvest. The report recommends:
Based on recommendations from the 2011 Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Advisory Report, this indicator tracks spawning-age female blue crab abundance and harvest in relation to targets and thresholds for this portion of the population. Previously, the indicator tracked total adult abundance and harvest (males and females) in relation to interim targets and thresholds for that population.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office