Blue crab populations in Chesapeake Bay are very low again this year, according to the results of the Winter Dredge Survey that were released earlier today. It is most concerning that the number of spawning age females has declined to the 4th lowest value since the survey began, below the minimum threshold established by fishery managers. Spawning age females represent the future of the crab fishery, as they will be the ones reproducing this summer. Protecting a sufficient number of these females from now until the end of this summer will be important to maximize reproduction and stabilize the population.
The one bright spot in the report is that the number of juvenile crabs increased 78% from last year's record low levels. This suggests that there may be more crabs around by late summer or fall of this year compared to 2013. However, juveniles in the dredge survey don't always survive to adulthood. As recently as 2012, record high numbers of juveniles in the dredge survey did not lead to a great fishing year.
Here's a link to the full press release from Maryland Department of Natural Resources.