The results of the 2012 Winter Dredge Survey for the Chesapeake Bay (view graphs form Maryland DNR here) give cause for optimism that the crab population is increasing and concern that reproduction will be low this year. A greater number of juveniles was observed this winter than in any year since the survey started in 1990. The numbers indicate that crab fishing will be great this summer and fall.
On the other hand, the number of adult females was only half the number observed in 2011. There are many possibilities as to why this may be the case including a lower number of juveniles in 2011, higher catch of females in the fishery, and responses to the unusually wet weather in 2011 or unusually warm weather this winter. We know too little about how crabs move in response to these extreme weather events to determine for sure whether they could be a cause of the low numbers of females in the survey. With the record number of juveniles this year, we should expect an increase in females in the 2013 survey.
Graphs courtesy of Maryland DNR - follow this link to the full survey results from Maryland's Department of Natural Resources and read about Maryland Governor O'Malley's press release here.