Mother nature may have lent a helping hand to government regulations in causing a rebound in the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crabs over the last two years. But it was not the only hand, as new conservation policies gave the beautiful swimmers a primary boost, crab researchers and regulators say.
Weather conditions favorable to the survival of blue crab larvae appear to have assisted in the more than doubling of Bay blue crab populations that was also driven by restrictions on catching female crabs imposed by Maryland and Virginia in 2008, according to scientists with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.
However, the Chesapeake Bay’s neighboring states to the North and South along the Atlantic have no evidence that they experienced as large a jump (if any) in crab populations as Maryland and Virginia. North Carolina and Delaware have not imposed new crabbing restrictions in the last two years. And the lack of similar crab population increases in North Carolina and Delaware suggests that the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab boom was not solely due to good weather, as some critics of the Bay’s crabbing restrictions have claimed.
The implication is that Maryland and Virginia’s protections for female crabs are, in fact, valuable for the Chesapeake’s ecology and economy -– and should be kept in place.
“First we clearly benefitted from regulations, and then we benefited from a combination of regulations and mother nature,” said Lynn Fegley, assistant director of the Fisheries Service at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.