The blue crab winter dredge survey found, and watermen confirm, that it’s a good year for crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. Now, Virginia and Maryland fisheries managers are responding by easing up commercial catch limits a bit.
On Tuesday, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) approved a slight increase to bushel limits in November, at the end of crab season. VMRC proposed the change in order to “conserve the blue crab resource, while taking into account variations in abundance of this resource.”
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) gave its nod of approval to the management decision. In a statement, CBF Senior Regional Ecosystem Scientist Chris Moore says:
“These modest changes will allow Virginia’s watermen to harvest more blue crabs and are entirely appropriate given strong crab numbers found in the recent winter dredge survey.
Maryland also made slight changes to its catch limits for this season, focusing specifically on mature female hard crabs. In a public notice posted May 30, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced slightly-higher bushel limits for all months of the 2019 season, which runs through November 30.
The Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC), responsible for managing the Potomac River from Washington, DC to the Chesapeake Bay, on the other hand, is keeping things “status quo” from last year. PRFC tells Bay Bulletin its Crab Advisory Committee didn’t recommend any changes to the crab catch, and the commission decided at its June 7 meeting to follow that recommendation.
“However,” says Ellen Cosby, PRFC Assistant Executive Secretary, “if MD & VA are ‘loosening limits’, the Commission may consider options later on.”
Mike Luisi, Maryland DNR Fisheries Monitoring and Assessment Division Director, tells Bay Bulletin that DNR, VMRC, and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission work in partnership to set catch limits year to year, considering public comment and feedback from advisory groups.
The 2019 winter dredge survey, conducted by DNR and VMRC, found that the Bay-wide blue crab population increased 60 percent from last year, making it the eighth-best year for crabs in the 30 years the survey has been done. Click here to read Bay Bulletin’s report on the winter dredge survey.
-Meg Walburn Viviano