Blue Crab Habitat and Management in Chesapeake Bay
Pugh, Judith Gayle
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Blue crabs are currently the most economically important species harvested from Chesapeake Bay and the fishery has declined since the early 1990â s. Recovery and sustainability of the valuable blue crab fishery hinges on protection of nursery habitat, foraging grounds and spawning grounds. The fishery supports hundreds of watermen in Virginia and Maryland, both commercially and recreationally. Commercial landings since the early 1990â s have been decreasing even though more time and effort has been expended in harvesting. Research indicates that fishing mortality and decline in spawning stock biomass are preventing blue crabs from rebounding. The decrease in spawning stock has perpetuated the risk of recruitment failure. While blue crab population sizes are naturally variable, declines are usually followed by recovery. Since an abrupt decrease in 1992, the blue crab population in Chesapeake Bay has not shown signs of recovery, although the population has shown signs of stabilization over the past three years. Blue crabs are found throughout Chesapeake Bay in different habitats at different life stages, stressing the need for Baywide ecosystem management to ensure recovery. A significant amount of research is being conducted to enhance the stock, understand habitat preferences, natural mortality, predator-prey interactions and harvesting impacts. Many questions remain regarding the life cycle of the blue crab, including the actual life span. Therefore, it is important that different life stages receive some form of protection to improve blue crab abundance.
- Masters Theses