Annual survey shows blue crab numbers are down in the Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is known for its blue crabs. But an annual survey shows the overall number of crabs in the bay is down – way down.

“Last year was probably one of the worst years I’ve had in 30 years, no matter what the numbers say,” says commercial waterman Pete Nixon.

The survey reports the total number of blue crabs dropped from 765 million to 300 million. And although there has been a 50 percent increase in adult female crabs, that wasn’t the case for male crabs.

“Everyone`s concerned about protecting spawning females, but what they`ve done is they`ve caused such a disruption in the mating process, all the decent sized male crabs have been caught up and the little crabs just don`t have a chance or the ability to do what they need to do in the mating process for the species,” Pete says.

Pete says his business saw about a 40 percent drop last year because at times, he couldn’t meet the demand.

“Everybody’s just trying to make a living. But it`s too much up river pressure and until we relieve that, and let these crabs mate a little bit in the spring and the summer, we`re not going to have the return of any abundance ever again,” Pete says.

While some blame the reduction in blue crab numbers on restrictions and regulations, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation say other factors contribute to it.

The foundation says the drop in crab numbers is likely the result of weather, pollution, habitat loss, and an increase in crab predators like red drum.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission says the reduction could mean a slight tightening of commercial harvest restrictions.

“My customers want large male crabs. We built our business on large male crabs and we don’t have them,” Pete says.

For now, Pete says he’ll have to do the best he can to make a living.

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