The recently released 2014 Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Advisory Report encourages fishery managers around the Chesapeake Bay to take a risk-averse approach to blue crab management this year, due primarily to a decrease in the number of female crabs in the Bay.
The advice is one of several scientifically developed suggestions in this annual assessment, developed by the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee (CBSAC), a fisheries management group that includes scientists and representatives from federal and state government as well as academic institutions.
Recommendations from the CBSAC 2014 report include:
• Agencies managing blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay should minimize the risks to crab populations, focusing on protecting juvenile female blue crabs as they consider any changes to regulation. This will rebuild the numbers of females and ensure that the juveniles can contribute to a more robust overall population.
• Jurisdictions should consider establishing sanctuaries—based on where females spend their time and blue crab biology—in different parts of the Bay over the course of the year in order to further protect female blue crabs.
• Accountability and reporting be improved for both commercial and recreational crabbing so managers can better track harvest levels throughout the season. The report discusses several ways to achieve this.
• Estimates of overwintering mortality need to be more precise and further investigation of whether sperm limitation may affect reproductive capability is needed. This would improve management through better data and analysis, including evaluation of gear efficiency estimates.
• Managers consider moving to an annual July-to-July cycle for reviewing regulations thereby enabling timelier use of the Winter Dredge Survey and the Blue Crab Advisory Report results.
The 2014 Blue Crab Advisory Report is based on data collected in the Bay-wide winter dredge survey (a cooperative effort between Maryland, Virginia, and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission) and on annual estimates of blue crab harvest.
source: Chesapeake Bay Program