Finally, some good news from the Baltimore Sun’s Timothy Wheeler on the bay. Excerpts below.
“The Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab population has bounced back from dangerously low levels, Maryland officials announced Wednesday, reporting that a newly completed survey of the crustaceans counted more than have been seen in more than a decade.”
“Based on the annual winter dredge survey of crabs waiting out cold weather on the bottom of the bay, Maryland and Virginia scientists estimate there are 658 million of them, the greatest abundance since 1997. The population has increased by 60 percent over the previous winter, the scientists said, improving on the 50 percent rebound seen during the first year after catch restrictions were imposed.
“It’s the best news in 10 years,” said Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, made up of legislators from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. She said it was “resounding” evidence that managing fisheries based on scientists’ advice works.”
“But O’Malley pointed out that the crab harvest grew last year even with tighter limits in place because there were more crabs to catch. Officials estimated that 53.7 million pounds of crabs were taken from the bay, 10 percent more than the year before but still below the level that might threaten the long-term sustainability of the population.”
“Larry W. Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, said his members weren’t surprised by the survey results because they’d been seeing a lot of young, little crabs. But he conceded that the catch restrictions, particularly on females, appeared to bear fruit.
“The proof’s in the pudding,” he said. “Mother Nature does a lot of things that we don’t know about, but I would say that restricting the harvest of female crabs had to help.”
This winter’s survey, which samples 1,500 places around the bay for slumbering crabs, found that the number of juveniles had doubled — evidence that protecting the females has paid off, scientists say.”
“William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, hailed the news and said it shows the bay can be resilient with a little help. Science-based policies and the cooperation between states have brought crabs back, he said. Now, the states and the federal government need to apply the same approach to cleaning up the bay’s pollution, he said.
Pointing to the crabs in the basket, Baker said, “These guys are going to spur the economy. They are the symbol of a bay that is fighting to come back. This shows us, with some good news that we really greatly need, that the bay can be saved.”