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Bay Crab Population Highest In Nearly Two Decades

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The crab population is up, with total abundance approaching levels not seen since the 1990s, but the number of adult females are down.
Jessica Gould
The crab population is up, with total abundance approaching levels not seen since the 1990s, but the number of adult females are down.

Maryland officials are touting a banner year for blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. Despite two fall storms that dumped tons of trash, mud and sediment into the bay, warm winter temperatures helped area crab populations continue to rebound.

Speaking at a crab house in Riva, Md., Governor Martin O'Malley announced that conservation measures have been successful in increasing the number of crabs living in the Bay: "I'm proud to report that the population of blue crabs is now at a 19-year high."

Maryland officials say the survey estimates a population of 764 million crabs in the bay — nearly two thirds more than last year's survey. The increase in population was driven largely by juvenile crabs, totaling a record high 587 million, which is triple the number last year.

The number of adult females fell, but scientists say they're not sure whether there are fewer adult females or they moved because of a wet fall and warm winter. Either way, their numbers stayed above what is considered a safe threshold.

"If we make better decisions as human beings, we can give Mother Nature that little bit of help so she can recover and restore what we've depleted by our thoughtlessness, by our carelessness, by our overuse of this great resource of the bay," said O'Malley.

The numbers are the latest in a continuing rebound for the bay's biggest money maker after Maryland and Virginia imposed harvest restrictions in 2008 following a population drop. Citing the progress, O'Malley said he plans to advocate similar restrictions moving forward.

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