Winter Dredge Survey Of Blue Crabs Shows Population Remains Stable

New data forecasts a harvest similar to 2005

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Service and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) announced today results of the 2006 winter dredge crab survey of the Chesapeake Bay.

The combined abundance of crabs declined in 2006 and remained below the 16-year survey average, although recent trends in abundance remain stable. The abundance of crabs in the first year of life that are less than two inches in length declined in 2006, but was above the lowest levels observed in 1992 and 2000. In general, the survey indicates that the population remains stable at a low level of abundance. Based on the historical relationship between dredge estimates and subsequent harvests, DNR expects that the 2006 harvest for the Chesapeake Bay will be comparable to the 2005 harvest.

The Bay-wide winter crab dredge survey is a cooperative effort between DNR and VIMS. Since 1990, the survey has employed crab dredges to sample blue crabs at 1,500 sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay from December through March. By sampling during winter when blue crabs are buried in the mud and stationary, scientists can develop, with good precision, estimates of the number of crabs present in the Bay. Estimates of abundance are developed for young of the year and older juvenile crabs, mature female crabs, and adult male crabs. Together, these groups of crabs will support the following year’s fishery and produce the next generation of crabs.

The winter dredge survey is one of four surveys used to assess the condition of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population. During 2006, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee (CBSAC) will complete analyses of the winter dredge survey and the remaining three surveys - the Maryland trawl, Virginia trawl and Calvert Cliffs pot study. Based on the results of the CBSAC analysis, the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office will issue a 2006 Blue Crab Advisory Report in the fall of 2006.

Please contact a spokesman at DNR for comment on the survey and details on the data obtained. Full details will be available early next week by logging on to

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