The Chesapeake Bay's blue crab population bounced back from dangerously low levels, Maryland officials announced in April, reporting that a newly completed survey of the crustaceans counted more than have been seen in more than a decade. A jubilant Gov. Martin O'Malley heralded the news from the waterfront deck of a seafood restaurant here, saying the winter crab survey justified the steps he and his counterpart in Virginia took two years ago to clamp down on the commercial catch. Both states shortened the season, slashing watermen's income, and Virginia banned its traditional practice of dredging slumbering female crabs from the bottom during winter. "This is a great day," O'Malley said, a half-bushel of steamed crabs that had been caught in Dorchester County at his feet. "The Chesapeake Bay's blue crab population is actually roaring back, and actually coming back stronger than many would ever have predicted." Based on the annual winter dredge survey of crabs waiting out cold weather on the bottom of the bay, Maryland and Virginia scientists estimated that there are 658 million of the crustaceans, the greatest abundance since 1997. The population had increased by 60 percent over the previous winter, the scientists said, improving on the 50 percent rebound seen during the first year after catch restrictions were imposed.
Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston
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