Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Population Rebounds

The population of Blue Brabs in the Chesapeake Bay has risen to an estimated 323 million crabs, a significant boost from 2022’s count of 227 million. 

The Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey, a cooperative effort between the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), estimates 323 million blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay in 2023, an increase from last year’s low of 227 million crabs.

The number of spawning age female crabs increased from 97 million crabs in 2022 to 152 million crabs in 2023, a substantial increase and well above the management threshold of 72.5 million crabs. Additionally, adult male crabs increased from 28 million crabs in 2022 to 55 million crabs in 2023.

Blue crab reproduction is naturally variable and influenced by many factors such as oceanic conditions, available nursery habitat, predation, and other environmental impacts. The number of juvenile crabs in the Chesapeake Bay has been below average for the past four years with the 2023 estimate at 116 million crabs, just a slight increase from 101 million juvenile crabs in 2022.

Broader Picture

Maryland’s Blue Crab population has been in decline since the 1990s. The population peaked at just under 900 million in 1993. Several pressures face Blue Crab populations, including harvesting, habitat loss, and predators. The best way to help keep these animals in the bay is through water quality improvements, underwater grass restoration, and proper fishery management. It’s unclear if this recent boost in Blue Crab populations will continue or if it’s an anomaly. Any effort to keep this crustacean in Maryland will require major cooperation from all levels of government and the private sector.

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Prior Conduit Street Coverage: Maryland’s Blue Crabs Move to Maine