Maryland sets first-ever limits on harvest of male Chesapeake blue crabs

For the first time ever, Maryland watermen will soon be limited on how many bushels of male blue crabs they can haul daily from the Chesapeake Bay.

With populations of blue crabs at the lowest level since recordkeeping began more than three decades ago, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced that starting in July, commercial watermen will be limited to at most 15 bushels a day of male crabs in August and September.

Until now, restrictions on Chesapeake Bay blue crab harvests have been limited to females to ensure there are enough in the bay to spawn.

“For the first time ever, Maryland is placing bushel limits on male crabs in a change that underscores the need to boost overall reproduction,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Maryland senior fisheries scientist Allison Colden said.

In addition, the blue crab harvest will end on Nov. 30, two weeks earlier than normal, in an attempt to bolster the crab population.

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Scientists for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation do not believe overfishing alone is responsible for the record low population. Other causes of the decline may be water pollution and the rapid spread of invasive blue catfish.

Virginia has also proposed new crab harvest restrictions.

“In the face of a worrisome decline in the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab population, it is encouraging that Virginia and Maryland are taking steps to protect the iconic crab fishery,” said Colden. “These modest changes to crab harvest limits will help ensure harvest rates do not exceed levels that could threaten the crab population.”