The Chesapeake Bay's most prolific crab season in years means more bushels of the Maryland natives at area restaurants this year.
Business owners in Maryland hope a banner year for blue crabs will boost business. For 55 years, Anthony Piera's family has been serving up Maryland-style crabs at Mike's Crab House in Riva, Md. But many of those crabs don't actually come from Maryland.
"We get crabs from Louisiana and Texas," Piera says. "And then when Maryland kicks in, we try to get a percentage from Maryland too."
Years of over-harvesting have made it difficult to rely on Maryland's blue crab stock," Piera says. It's too bad, he adds, because "Maryland crabs are the best tasting crabs. It's just a sweeter product."
But he's optimistic. In a survey conducted last winter, researchers found nearly two-thirds more blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay than in the year before. Juvenile crabs reached a record high, and while the number of adult females fell, it stayed at what's considered a safe threshold.
Environmental conditions helped increase this year's stock, says Bill Goldsborough of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
"Last year we had favorable currents," Goldsborough says. "And I expect that Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee had something to do with that."
The abundance is an indication that the harvest limits imposed by the state are paying off, according to Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).
"Our conservation measures are working," O'Malley said at a press conference to announce the results of the crab survey Thursday. "We have reached our goal of a healthy abundance of blue crabs."
Piera says he's pleased to see the state taking steps to preserve the crab stock.
"It seems like they're really trying to make it a healthier bay," he says. Because a healthy bay means better business, and more Maryland blue crabs on customers' plates.