It’s beginning to look like business as usual with the Chesapeake’s most treasured natural resource, the blue crab. Maryland is on course to resume the destructive harvest of female crabs, sooks, with its first official act upon the arrival of news that the crab population has at last begun to rebound.
At the brink of species collapse two years ago, our crab population has shown a 60 percent increase in only two seasons after the first significant reduction of female harvest. There should be little doubt at this point that protecting females is the most critical factor in rebuilding our blue crab populations.
The steady and nearly disastrous decline of the state’s beloved and delicious crustacean had been blamed on many things over the years: pollution; loss of Bay grasses; too many rockfish; agricultural runoff; stormwater runoff; and then, quite possibly — the over-harvest of females.
Historically, the taking of females was sanctioned and based on research concluding that the harvest of mature females had little effect on overall crab population, even though common sense and much public opinion indicated otherwise. –
With the crab population dropping to critical levels, more research cast doubt on the original science. This year it has become crystal clear that the wholesale harvest of female crabs was suicidal for the species.