Report: Female blue crab numbers are way down

Posted at 6:51 PM, Feb 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-06 18:51:30-05

Norfolk, Va. - The Chesapeake Bay is known for its blue crabs.

But a recent report from the Chesapeake Bay Program says the number of spawning-age female blue crabs has gone way down.  In fact, the numbers are so low that the report says those crabs are in a depleted state.

"This past season was the worst year I've had.  Been doing this for over 30 years," said Pete Nixon who makes a living by crabbing.

Nixon says he and other crabbers are having a tough time these days.

"We talk about it all the time, and nobody's doing well.  Some people are getting by alright, but nobody's doing well," said Nixon.

According to the report, the number of spawning-age female blue crabs fell from 147 million in 2013 to 68.5 million in 2014.

Why is this so important?  It's because female crabs reproduce new crabs to help sustain the populations over time.  But without a healthy number of those crabs, it starts to affect the wallet, not only for watermen but for consumers, too.

"The cost of boats, the cost of pots, the cost of everything continues to escalate, and your catch is going down.  And the only way you can compensate for that is hopefully get a little more money for your product," said Nixon.

The report says poor water quality, habitat loss, and natural predators can affect blue crab numbers.  But Nixon says there's more to it, affecting not only female crabs but males, too.

"It all goes back to overharvesting in years past.  I'm not really sure that we're really overharvesting now, but we're harvesting at a level that's not allowing the crab population to rebound," said Nixon.

Nixon hopes Virginia and neighboring states will take more measure to help turn around crab numbers in the Chesapeake Bay sooner than later.