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DNR Announces Results Of 2004-05 Winter Dredge Crab Survey
ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Service today announced preliminary results of the 2004-05 winter dredge crab survey. Estimates of total blue crab abundance were significantly higher than levels measured in the 2003-04 survey. This increase is primarily due to the presence of large numbers of young crabs in their first year of life.
The index of abundance for these age 0 juvenile crabs is the highest since 1997 and the sixth highest observed in the 16-year study. The abundance of mature females increased slightly but was not significantly higher than levels observed in 2004. However, in the past three years, the abundance of mature females has remained significantly higher than the historically low levels measured during the 2000-01 and 2001-02 surveys.
Biologists have not yet fully assessed the effects of this year’s over-winter mortality. Large crabs are most sensitive to winter cold so any effects will be seen early in the 2005 season, both in terms of size and quantity of crabs harvested. Based on the historical relationship between dredge estimates and subsequent harvest, DNR expects that the Bay-wide harvest will be comparable to the 2004 harvest of approximately 56 million pounds.
The winter dredge survey is one of four surveys used to assess the condition of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population. This spring, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee will complete analysis of the winter dredge survey and the remaining three surveys - the Maryland trawl, Virginia trawl and Calvert Cliffs pot study. Based on the results of this analysis, the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office will issue a 2005 blue crab advisory report in late June or early July.
The Bay-wide winter crab dredge survey is a cooperative effort between the DNR and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Since 1990, the survey has employed crab dredges to sample blue crabs at 1,500 sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay from December through March. By sampling during winter when blue crabs are burrowed in the mud and stationary, scientists can develop, with good precision, estimates of the number of crabs present in the Bay. Estimates of abundance are developed for juveniles entering their first year, mature females and adult male crabs. Together, these groups will support the following year’s fishery and produce the next generation of crabs.
For more information on the survey, log on to www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/crab/winter_dredge.html.
April 1, 2005
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 446,000 acres of public lands and 18,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov