• Progress

    The Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab stock is not depleted and overfishing is not occurring. According to the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee (CBSAC), an estimated 16 percent of the female blue crab population was harvested in 2016. 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 female blue crab harvest levels and adult female blue crab abundance levels fall in relation to these reference points informs management decisions for the blue crab fishery.

    In 2014, the three blue crab management jurisdictions—Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission—responded to a depleted blue crab stock by putting additional harvest restrictions in place, largely through lower bushel limits. Maryland increased these bushel limits in 2015 and 2016, and all three jurisdictions extended the crab pot season in 2016.

    The percentage of female blue crabs harvested in 2016 marks a slight increase from the previous year. The total Bay-wide commercial harvest of both male and female blue crabs also marks an increase from the previous year, from about 50 million pounds to about 60 million pounds.

    In its 2017 Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Advisory Report, CBSAC—which includes scientists and representatives from state agencies and academic institutions, as well as federal fisheries experts—recommended maintaining a risk-averse approach to blue crab management. Over the long term, this subcommittee of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team (GIT) recommends the improvement of harvest estimates and stock assessments and the continued analysis of effort and characterizing catch in the fishery. Following the publication of this report, Maryland and Virginia announced lower bushel limits and a shorter commercial crabbing season.

    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.

    As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in August of 2017. This outcome will be reviewed again in 2019.

  • 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.

    Completed actions from the work plan include:

    • Identifying stakeholder concerns and/or support for the allocation of a Bay-wide Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of blue crabs.
    • Obtaining public feedback on potential Bay-wide TAC allocation methods.
  • 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.