• Progress

    The Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. According to the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee (CBSAC), an estimated 15 percent of the female blue crab population was harvested in 2015. This is below the 34 percent overfishing threshold.

    This outcome’s female-specific reference points were recommended in the 2011 Stock Assessment of the Blue Crab in Chesapeake Bay. The implementation of these reference points began in 2012. Where adult female blue crab abundance—which is tracked in relation to a target of 215 million and a threshold of 70 million—falls in relation to these numbers informs management decisions for the blue crab fishery.

    In its 2016 Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Advisory Report, CBSAC—which includes scientists and representatives from state agencies and academic institutions, as well as federal fisheries experts—recommends maintaining a risk-averse approach to blue crab management. This subcommittee of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team (GIT) notes that just two years ago, the blue crab stock was considered depleted.

    Over the long term, CBSAC recommends the improvement of harvest estimates and stock assessments, the adoption of complementary management measures (including the consideration of year-round sanctuary areas for female crabs) and the evaluation of an allocation-based blue crab management framework. The three management jurisdictions (Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission) will determine if an allocation-based management framework would be a feasible and effective method of distributing an annual total allowable catch (TAC) of male and female blue crabs for the Bay’s commercial and recreational fisheries.

    Blue crabs support commercial and recreational fisheries across the region. Poor water quality, habitat loss, harvest pressure and predation affect their continued health.

  • Management Strategy

    To achieve the blue crab management outcome, participating partners have committed to:

    • Planning and implementing the next stock assessment; and
    • Evaluating an allocation-based jurisdictional management framework.

    These partners will also collaborate with the work being done to achieve the climate adaptation, climate monitoring and assessment, fish habitat, forage fish, submerged aquatic vegetation, and water quality standards attainment and monitoring outcomes.

    Monitoring and assessing progress toward the outcome will occur through the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee’s (CBSAC) annual review of blue crab survey data and determination of population status relative to biological reference points. The continuation of the annual Bay-wide Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey will be essential in estimating the blue crab population and monitoring the stock.

  • Work Plan
    Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking specific actions over the course of 2016 and 2017 to achieve the high-level approaches identified in the management strategy above.
  • Participating Partners

    The Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team leads the effort to achieve this outcome. Participating partners include:

    • Maryland Department of Natural Resources (State of Maryland)
    • Virginia Marine Resources Commission (Commonwealth of Virginia)
    • Potomac River Fisheries Commission
    • Chesapeake Bay Commission
    • National Marine Fisheries Service (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

    Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia also engage commercial and recreational blue crab harvesters through committees and advisory groups, which include the Maryland Blue Crab Industry Advisory Committee, Blue Crab Industry Design Team, Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission and Tidal Fisheries Advisory Commission; the Virginia Blue Crab Industry Panel and Marine Resources Commission Crab Management Advisory Committee; and the Potomac River Crab Advisory Committee.