By Sabri Ben-Achour
It was only two years ago that the blue crab fishery in the bay was declared a federal disaster. The population crashed in the late 90's and had never recovered.
"What we failed to do was balance the harvest with the lower abundance of crabs," says Lynn Fegley, who is with Maryland's Department of Natural Resources.
Starting in 2008, Maryland and Virginia limited the catch of female crabs, shut down the winter crabbing season and gave migrating crabs safe passage to spawning areas.
This year, biologists have counted the highest number of crabs since 1997, up 60 percent over last year. But Fegley remains cautious.
"This is not yet a trend," she says. "This is a highly variable species. History has shown us you can get a really nice year of reproduction and things can be drastically different the next year."
Fegley says crabbing restrictions won't be lifted anytime soon.