Drop in blue crab population cuts commercial crabbing season by 10 days

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Business is booming at the popular Annapolis Seafood Market, according to Manager, Franco Alas, where everyone, including the mayor, stops in to pick up fresh fish or a quick bite.

Alas says compared to last year, the harvest has been abundant.
“I think we bought around, I would say, over 300 bushels for the weekend, so that’s something that we haven’t seen in a while. So, I think the population of crabs is a lot better.”, he says.

However, that runs contrary to what the Annual Blue Crab Advisory Report says.

It states that the overall population of blue crabs in the bay is down by 18 percent, citing a 54 percent drop in juvenile crabs. Though, the female crab population has actually risen by 30 percent.

Bill Sieling, Executive Vice President of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, is skeptical of those findings.

He says. “Those of us in the industry feel that that number is not probably as accurate as maybe it should be, because the DNR initially reported that there was a record number of female crabs.”

Sieling has taken issue with DNR’s decision to cut the crabbing season short by 10 days and limiting the number of bushels that can be harvested for commercial crabbers, saying it will impact their most profitable time of year.

“The industry is going to face a reduction in the fall when they have their greatest harvest, when in late September, October, and early November. It’s the time when you really make money in the industry because that’s when the most crabs are available, the price of the crab is cheaper, and you can put up your winter pack.”, he explains.

For the consumer, it means the price of crabmeat in the off season will likely jump. Though it’s too early to tell by how much, Alas doesn’t seem worried.

He says, “November, you don’t sell much. People, I think, are already like, that’s enough crabs and it starts to get a little colder and it’s not that many people buying that many crabs.”.

The DNR has said that crab populations can vary based on weather, water temps, and other conditions.
The commercial crabbing season will close on November 20th.