News FocusFisheries

Chesapeake Crabs: Engineering a Rebound

Science  10 Dec 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6010, pp. 1474
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6010.1474

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Summary

By stopping harvesting early in Chesapeake Bay, when the fall female migration is at its peak, one of the world's largest crab fisheries was brought from the brink of collapse to a healthy population in just 3 years. A winter dredge of buried hibernating pregnant females in Virginia—which killed two females for every one caught—was also closed. Those fishers were hired with federal funds to recover lost traps, which continue to kill scores of crabs. Finally, a spawning-season sanctuary was extended. As a result, the spring 2009 survey of 1500 spots up and down the bay found that the female population had climbed by 70%, while the male population barely changed. This spring, the survey showed that the number of females was up 200% over the 2008 figure. Overall, the number of crabs has soared from 131 million in 2008 to 315 million this year.

* Christopher Pala is a writer in Washington, D.C.

  • * Christopher Pala is a writer in Washington, D.C.

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