Overall abundance of Chesapeake Bay blue crabs dropped from 765 million to 300 million crabs, according to the 2013 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey.
Juvenile crabs declined from 581 million to 111 million. The number of spawning-age females increased from 95 million to 147 million, well above the healthy-abundance threshold of 70 million.
Officials cite poor reproduction in 2013 and possible high mortality within the 2012 year-class as contributing factors to an overall decline in the Bay-wide population.
The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee is reviewing the data and will begin drafting their 2013 Blue Crab Advisory Report over the next few weeks.
In response to the Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey, Maryland, Virginia, and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) are pursuing strategies to reduce the harvest of female crabs by approximately 10 percent.
The Virginia blue crab winter dredge fishery has been closed since 2008 and is expected to remain closed for the upcoming season.
sources: Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Virginia Marine Resources Commission