Back from the Brink
By Tom Pelton
©2010 KARINE AIGNER/ILCP
lue crabs are fierce predators and armored cannibals, with their
claws as quick to snap up one of their own young as they are to
devour a fish or worm. But Callinectes sapidus also embody the
spirit of the Chesapeake Bay. They are the beautiful swimmers
that have clawed their way back from the brink to continue their reign
as the irascible czars of the nation’s largest estuary.
After plummeting to a near-record low in 2007, blue crab populations in
the Bay have nearly tripled over the last five years because of restrictions
on catching females imposed by Virginia and Maryland in 2008.
A scientific dredge survey of crabs this past winter estimated 764 million
blue crabs in the Chesapeake, which was up 66 percent from the 461
million in 2010, and nearly three times the 255 million in 2007, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. After these
impressive numbers were announced in April, however, harvests of blue
crabs in the early summer were relatively low.