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Blue Crab Abundance (Spawning-Age Females)

Between 2016 and 2017, the abundance of adult (age 1+) female blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay increased 31 percent from 194 million to 254 million. This number is above the 70 million overfishing and the 215 million target abundance, and marks the highest amount ever recorded by the Bay-wide Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey.

April 20, 2011

Why are blue crabs important to the Chesapeake Bay? Bruce Vogt from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains the iconic crustacean’s economic, ecologic and gastronomic value. Learn more about blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay Program’s online Field Guide.

April 20, 2011

April 2013: The Chesapeake Bay winter dredge survey is an annual count of the Bay’s blue crab population, and a critical component of blue crab management. The information gathered on abundance, young-of-the-year and spawning stock—those crabs that will mature enough to reproduce during the upcoming year—allows fisheries managers to set commercial and recreational harvest limits for the season ahead.
Closed captions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mvEE7ydXA


Perhaps no species is more closely associated with the Chesapeake Bay than the blue crab. Blue crabs support commercial and recreational fisheries across the region, but poor water quality, habitat loss, harvest pressure and natural predation affect their continued health. Blue crab population levels inform how harvest regulations should or shouldn’t change if we are to maintain a sustainable blue crab stock.


The Chesapeake Bay Program has a target abundance of 215 million spawning-age female blue crabs, adopted in 2011.

Additional Information

Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission manage blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. This indicator tracks spawning-age female blue crab abundance in relation to targets and thresholds recommended by the 2011 Blue Crab Benchmark Stock Assessment and adopted by management jurisdictions in December of 2011. Previously, this indicator tracked total adult abundance and harvest (males and females) in relation to interim targets and thresholds for that population.

The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee (CBSAC), which includes scientists and representatives from states, academic institutions and the federal government, will use this data to make recommendations on sustaining the blue crab population in its 2017 Blue Crab Advisory Report, expected to be released this summer. This report will highlight the current status of the blue crab population and make recommendations to sustain robust crab populations over the long term.

Source of Data

NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office

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