Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Spawning Stock is Highest Recorded!

Results of the annual blue crab population survey in Chesapeake Bay are out and there's some great news and some not so good news. The 254 million spawning age females (this year's reproductive stock) are the most recorded in the survey. On the other hand, juvenile numbers are half what they were a year ago.

The figure above is from Maryland Department of Natural Resources Winter Dredge Survey page.

You can read more about the survey results here.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Maryland officials hint at "customer service" approach to management

At a hearing this week called to address the firing of Maryland's 28-year blue crab fishery manager, officials described a shift to a "customer service" approach to management. It remains unclear how much of a shift this will represent from the science-based management approach of the previous administration. Read more about the hearing in this Baltimore Sun article.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Maryland's Governor Hogan fires blue crab manager

From the Bay Journal:

Maryland’s veteran manager of the state’s blue crab fishery was fired this week after a group of watermen complained to Gov. Larry Hogan about a catch regulation that they contend hurts their livelihood — but that scientists say is needed to ensure a sustainable harvest. 
Brenda Davis, crab program manager for the Department of Natural Resources and a 28-year state employee, said she was informed Tuesday that her services were no longer needed.

In an interview Wednesday, Davis said Fisheries Director Dave Blazer gave no reason for her summary dismissal. But it came after Hogan met last week with about a dozen Dorchester County watermen who had been pressing Davis and the DNR for a change in a long-time regulation setting the minimum catchable size for crabs. 
“I was totally shocked. It was totally unexpected,” Davis said yesterday. “I was really surprised and a bit disappointed given my time there that re-assignment wasn’t an option, because I think I’m going to be short on being able to do full retirement.” 
A spokeswoman for the governor declined to comment. A DNR spokesman likewise said officials would not comment on a personnel matter.
Read the rest of the article here.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Blue Crab Travels: Studying Tags Offers Insights into Crab Habitats and Dispersal

From the Maryland Sea Grant Fellowship Experiences: A Student's Blog

Robert Semmler
September 15, 2016
If you caught a blue crab on the Chesapeake Bay during the past year or so, you might have seen one with a pink plastic tag attached to its shell. I’m part of a scientific research team who asked fishers and watermen to report those tags, and I am glad to report that those calls and e-mails are contributing to a better understanding of the Bay’s blue-crab population and how to sustain it.

The tags were part of a scientific study I was involved in to improve knowledge about where adult male crabs travel in the Bay. In summer 2015 I wrote on this blog about the efforts that my lab and I went through to organize and undertake this large-scale crab tagging experiment. Since then, I and the other members of the Fish and Invertebrate Ecology Lab (a.k.a. “The Crab Lab”), at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, have completed our work to release the tagged crabs tagging efforts across Maryland, with 8,741 adult blue crabs tagged in total. As expected, it meant a lot of early mornings with a few pinched fingers along the way.

Read the rest of the story at Maryland Sea Grant Fellowship Experiences: A Student's Blog

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Should female sponge crabs be harvested?

Here's a recent look at the question by Pamela D'Angelo at  the newly established Chesapeake: A Journalism Collaborative.

The Atlantic blue crab, Chesapeake Bay’s signature crustacean, has been through tough times in the last 20 years. Some recent improvement has been credited to restrictions on harvesting females. Yet Virginia still allows the harvest of egg-bearing females, something Maryland banned back in 1917. The reasons why seem to be wrapped up in economics.
In late June, Ida Hall, a commercial waterman was pulling crab pots from creek just inside Virginia’s western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. As she sorted large from small male crabs she also tossed egg-bearing females, called sponge crabs, into a separate basket... Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chesapeake Blue Crab Population Increases in 2016

The blue crab population in Chesapeake Bay has increased to some of the highest levels in recent decades. It's likely to be a strong crab harvest, but it's too early to claim victory in efforts to rebuild the blue crab stock. The mature female spawning stock remains below the target of 215 million crabs and juvenile abundance was about average. While these numbers are encouraging, maintaining the current management strategy of protecting the female spawning stock is important to sustain the rebuilding effort.

Read more about the results at the Bay Journal.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Baby Blue Crabs Blown into Chesapeake Bay

Maryland Sea Grant highlighted new research from colleagues at University of Maryland's Horn Point Lab on how important weather is for helping baby blue crabs migrate from the ocean into bays and estuaries.

New Clues to How Crab Babies Make It Back to the Bay

crab megalopa on a transparent ruler

Daniel Pendick • February 29, 2016
Every spring, female crabs near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay spawn their young. Nearly all of the hatched larvae are swept into the open ocean by outflowing surface water. Adrift in the sea, they feed on even tinier marine creatures and speed through seven growth spurts over a month or so. Finally, as the little swimmers are just starting to look like crabs, some of them manage to make it back into the Bay and get a chance to grow into adults. 
Chesapeake Bay scientists have spent decades trying to figure out how these boomerang babies — larval crabs called megalopae — get back to the estuary. Are they carried in by nighttime tides? By underwater currents? Or by massive wind-driven inflows of ocean water? In search of answers, scientists mounted two research cruises in 2005 and 2006 to gather new data on the crab homecoming in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. Understanding these details might someday help regulators to fine-tune management of crab harvests...