Blue Crabs

The Bay’s signature crustacean supports important commercial and recreational fisheries. But pollution, habitat loss and harvest pressures threaten blue crab abundance.

FAQ

  • What do blue crabs eat?

    Blue crabs are opportunistic omnivores. They will eat nearly anything they can find, including bivalves, dead fish, plant and animal detritus, and even other crabs!

  • How long do blue crabs live?

    Blue crabs have a rapid growth rate and short life span. Few blue crabs live longer than three years.

  • What is a crab jubilee?

    Like all other critters in the Chesapeake Bay, blue crabs need oxygen to survive. When the water’s oxygen content is too low, blue crabs have been known to come out of the water and onto the land to escape suffocation. This phenomenon is known as a “crab jubilee.”

  • Do blue crabs put on weight before winter hibernation?

    Blue crabs do not eat more to prepare for winter hibernation (like, for instance, a black bear might). While blue crabs are heavier in the fall, this is because the crabs have gone through several molts and grown in size.

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Terms

  • Abundance index

    Information obtained from samples or observations that is used to measure the weight or number of fish that make up a stock.

  • Benthos

    Plants and animals that live in or on the bottom of an aquatic environment, including worms, shellfish and bottom-feeding finfish.

  • Crustaceans

    Aquatic arthropods (invertebrates) that have gills, joined legs and exterior skeletons. Crabs, shrimps, barnacles, amphipods and isopods are all crustaceans.

  • Dredge

    An apparatus used to bring up objects or mud from a river or seabed by scooping or dragging.

  • Food chain/web

    A food chain is formed as one organism eats another. A food web is a system of interlocking and interdependent food chains, in which each organism supplies energy to another life form.

  • Keystone species

    A species whose survival affects other organisms in an ecosystem. If a keystone species were removed from an ecosystem, the ecosystem would drastically change.

  • Overwinter

    To remain alive or viable throughout the winter.

  • Predator

    An animal that hunts for and eats other plants or animals.

  • Prey

    A plant or animal that is hunted for and eaten by a predator.

  • Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV)

    The technical term for bay grasses that grow underwater. SAV can improve water quality and provide food and habitat to fish, shellfish and waterfowl.

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