It's the time of year when crab spawning is at its peak. Prospects for the next generation, the new year-class of baby crabs due in the fishery in 2012, are very mixed. Newly hatched zoea larvae face an uncertain future in the Gulf. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the dispersants used on it will have an unknown effect on the environmentally sensitive young larvae that spend their first month or so of life floating around in coastal waters. If they survive their time in the Gulf, they will migrate to salt marshes and seagrass beds that may also be contaminated. What this means for the future of the Gulf crab fishery is largely unknown.
Along parts of the Atlantic coast, things are looking better for crabs and crabbers than they have in over a decade. Restrictions on fishing in the Chesapeake Bay have led to high numbers of spawning females and, for the first time this spring, a significant increase in the number of juveniles. Some of the increase in reproduction could spill over into adjacent states, especially the Albemarle-Pamlico sound region of North Carolina.
Here's to hoping the new generation is a good one.