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Protecting female crabs

Pamela D'Angelo

Although surveys conducted last winter showed the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab population has held steady, fisheries managers are suggesting new restrictions because they’re concerned about a drop-off in the number of young female crabs.

Virginia's fisheries chief Rob O'Reilly, said the number of adult females may have increased this year by a whopping 31 percent, but he’s worried about the next generation of females.

"So, it's the fourth lowest in 28 years," he said at a meeting of bay state fisheries managers in Wallops Island, Va. Wednesday. "Some steps need to be taken, not major steps, but just enough so we conserve as many of the potential 2018 spawning stock as we can."

Female crabs reproduce prolifically and baby females are the key to the next generation of crabs. That’s why fisheries managers closely guard that population.

The Potomac River Fisheries Commission and Maryland's Department of Natural Resources plan to make adjustments similar to Virginia’s.

"We're basically looking at modifying the season length and bushel limits," said Dave Blazer, director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fishing and Boating Service.

It would be done "with that conservation mind to protecting that 2016 year class," he added.

Regulators say they will hold public hearings and meet with crabbers next week to discuss how to protect those young female crabs.

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