The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Service has released information about the 2007 Maryland Chesapeake Bay blue crab harvest. The estimated 2007 harvest is 21.8 million pounds, approximately 6 million pounds below the 2006 harvest and slightly above Maryland’s lowest recorded harvest of 20.2 million pounds in 2000.
“The low 2007 blue crab harvest is the result of many factors including: low abundance due to poor reproduction of young blue crabs in late 2006; reduced fishing effort; and unusual climatic conditions that caused blue crabs to move further north up the Bay’s tributaries, making them less accessible to large crab pot fishing operations,” explained DNR Fisheries Biologist Lynn Fegley.
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has directed DNR to begin developing a series of management options in consultation with stakeholders. Maryland is also working with Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission to ensure coordination of possible management actions.
“Since 70 percent of the Bay’s female blue crabs are harvested from Virginia waters,we must work together to coordinate action toward a solution,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin,” and both states must enforce their fair share of any necessary restrictions if we are to ensure the future of our blue crab population.”
Officals claim that Maryland will factor in scientific assessment of the relative effects of management options on the blue crab population numbers prior to implementing any restrictions, which could occur as early as April 2008.
“Recently, the blue crab has been in the headlines because of reduced catches by commercial and recreational crabbers in the Bay,” claims Frank Dawson, DNR Assistant Secretary for Aquatic Resources. “While harvesting is a major factor in affecting the crab population, impaired habitat — particularly the loss of bay grasses due to poor water quality — has also significantly contributed to the problems facing our state’s treasured blue crabs.”
Secretary Griffin went on to state that “Every Maryland citizen and business has a role in helping to protect our blue crabs and restore the Chesapeake,” adding “…we all need to start taking actions in our daily lives to live more sustainably, to ensure a healthy future for our blue crabs, our children and our beloved Bay.”