• Progress

    In November of 2017, Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) informed the Chesapeake Bay Program of their decision to maintain the existing blue crab management framework rather than establish a new, allocation-based framework for the Chesapeake Bay's commercial and recreational blue crab fisheries. This decision was based on constituent feedback and management agency perspectives, and marks the completion of this outcome. Maryland, Virginia and the PRFC will continue to operate under a management framework that uses female-specific reference points to indicate the sustainability of the blue crab stock. Where female blue crab harvest levels and adult female blue crab abundance fall in relation to these reference points-which were recommended in 2011 and implemented in 2012-will inform blue crab management decisions.

    According to the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee (CBSAC), an estimated 16 percent of the female blue crab population was harvested in 2016. For the ninth consecutive year, this number is below the 25.5 percent target and the 34 percent overfishing threshold. The Chesapeake Bay's blue crab stock is not depleted and overfishing is not occurring.

    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 federal fisheries experts, as well as scientists and representatives from state agencies and academic institutions-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.

    Maryland, Virginia and the PRFC have regulations in place that can be used to respond to changes in the blue crab stock. In 2014, the three blue crab management jurisdictions 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. In 2017, Maryland and Virginia announced lower bushel limits and a shorter commercial crabbing season in response to a drop in the abundance of juvenile crabs.

    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:

    • In 2016, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Virginia Marine Resources Commission and Potomac River Fisheries Commission sought constituent feedback on the potential establishment and allocation of a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the Chesapeake Bay's commercial and recreational blue crab fisheries. The Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team (GIT) received feedback from the Maryland Tidal Fisheries Advisory Commission, Virginia Crab Management Advisory Committee and Potomac River Fisheries Commission, and summarized the concerns of both management agencies and stakeholder organizations for the Chesapeake Bay Program's Management Board.
  • 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.