Results of the 2019 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey indicate that the Bay-wide blue crab population increased 60 percent from last year, to an estimated total population of 594 million crabs.
The rise in adult abundance of blue crabs was higher than anticipated given a poor influx of juveniles in 2017 and 2018.
The adult female population climbed to 190 million, a 29 percent gain from 2018 and the adult male population increased to 80 million or 38 percent.
Mild winter temperatures also helped increase both juvenile and adult blue crab overwintering survival rates.
The juvenile crab population also increased from 167 million in 2018 to 324 million this year.
Since blue crabs spend the first part of their lives in the Atlantic Ocean they rely heavily on favorable currents, temperatures, and winds to bring them into the Chesapeake Bay where they grow and mature.
In 2018 baywide harvest was 55 million pounds, which is similar to the 54 million pounds harvested in 2017.
The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee will review the results of the survey and plan to release a full analysis this summer.
The Winter Dredge Survey has been conducted cooperatively by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science since 1990. The results are reviewed annually in an effort to have consistent management efforts across the jurisdictions.
Throughout the survey, biologists use dredge equipment to capture, measure, record, and release blue crabs at 1,500 sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay from December through March.