DNR: crab pop­u­la­tions up for Ch­e­sa­peake Bay

Dorchester Star - - Regional - By JOSH BOLLINGER jbollinger@star­dem.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ jboll_ star­dem.

EAS­TON — Mary­land’s blue crab sea­son started about two weeks ago, and the pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mate from the 2016 Blue Crab Win­ter Dredge Sur­vey “bodes well for a bet­ter har­vest this year,” ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources.

Ac­cord­ing to DNR, the sur­vey in­di­cates a 35 per­cent in­crease — an es­ti­mated to­tal of 553 mil­lion — from last year’s Bay­wide crab pop­u­la­tion.

“Due to a milder win­ter, fa­vor­able cur­rents and tides, and wise Bay- wide man­age­ment mea­sures, the Mary­land crab pop­ula- tion con­tin­ues to re­bound and strengthen,” DNR Fish­eries Ser­vice Di­rec­tor Dave Blazer said. “With an in­crease in abun­dance and steady re­cruit­ment, we fully an­tic­i­pate a ro­bust crab sea­son this year.”

The news comes two years af­ter a win­ter dredge sur­vey by DNR that pegged the pop­u­la­tion of spawn­ing- age fe­male crabs be­low an over­fish­ing thresh­old level of 70 mil­lion. The 2015 win­ter dredge sur­vey saw a 38 per­cent pop­u­la­tion boost from that year, though.

Ac­cord­ing to DNR, im­prove­ments were seen in all age groups of male and fe­male crabs.

The spawn­ing fe­male stock nearly dou­bled from 101 to 194 mil­lion, but is still be­low a goal level of 215 mil­lion es­tab­lished in 2011, DNR said. The adult male stock more than dou­bled from 44 to 91 mil­lion, which is the sec­ond high­est level since 1995, DNR said.

The ju­ve­nile crab abun­dance in­creased slightly from 269 mil­lion to 271 mil­lion, which is just above the 27- year av­er­age, DNR said.

DNR said the 2015 Bay­wide crab har­vest in­creased by 42 per­cent over 2014 to 50 mil­lion pounds and re­mained at sus­tain­able lev­els for the eighth con­sec­u­tive year. This com­bined with in­creased abun­dance means that a slight lib­er­al­iza­tion of har­vest lim­its for fe­male crabs may be war­ranted this sum­mer, DNR said.

“Our ex­perts will now dis­cuss the sur­vey re­sults with our in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal stake­hold­ers,” Blazer said. “Any mod­est ad­just­ment to the cur­rent reg­u­la­tions, be it sea­son length or bushel limit, will be con­sid­ered only af­ter the de­part­ment re­ceives in­put from all par­ties.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Pro­gram, blue crabs have less of a tol­er­ance for colder wa­ter tem­per­a­tures, so in cold weather they re­lo­cate to deeper wa­ters and spend the win­ter months in a dor­mant state bur­rowed in muddy or sandy bot­toms.

Once the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture starts to rise, so do blue crabs.

Brenda Davis, the Blue Crab Pro­gram man­ager at the Mary­land De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, said in a phone in­ter­view in early April that the gen­eral rule of thumb is crabs will start en­ter­ing crab pots when the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture is around 50 de­grees, and will start hang­ing on a trot­line at be­tween 55 and 60 de­grees.

Even with pop­u­la­tion in­crease, some were still cau­tions about blue crab man­age­ment op­tions.

Chris Moore, se­nior sci­en­tist with the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion, said the re­sults of the sur vey in­di­cates the cur­rent man­age­ment plan by Mary­land and Vir­ginia is work­ing.

“How­ever, fishery man­agers should re­main cau­tious as the num­ber of adult, fe­male blue crabs, while in­creased in this year’s sur­vey, are still be­low the lev­els that sci­ence rec­om­mends,” Moore said. “Con­tin­ued con­ser­va­tive man­age­ment of the fishery and im­prov­ing wa­ter qual­ity by im­ple­ment­ing the Ch­e­sa­peake Clean Wa­ter Blue­print are the keys to a build­ing and sus­tain­ing a healthy crab pop­u­la­tion.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.