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Why Throw Back Blue Female Crabs?

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Blue crab populations have drastically dropped over the years.

Blue crab populations have drastically dropped over the years.

Which States Have Blue Crab Restrictions and Why?

In many states, particularly in the southern and eastern U.S. where the crabs are mostly harvested, the law states that you must throw back the female crabs. Another variation of the law restricts how many females you can keep. Here are a few examples of blue crab regulations in Maryland and Georgia.

It's a wonder why some of them are kept anyway, especially with the egg sacs still intact, considering how the blue crab population has been decimated over a period of decades and has not yet recovered. It's truly terrible people don't recognize the consequences of their actions.

Scarcity of Blue Crabs

In Virginia, Maryland, and Potomac Rivers, where much of the blue crabs are harvested and live, female crabs and their offspring begin their trek to the Atlantic where the babies are better ensured of survival in salty water.

Not many of them make it; due to pollution and predators, many babies don't even make it to adulthood and that precarious future is further endangered if females carrying babies don't even survive to deliver offspring.

A single female can produce up to 8 million eggs and only a small fraction of those eggs will become viable babies. Even their habitat has been threatened, which threatens their survival. In many cases, babies don't even have grass to hide from predators, and a recent surge in red drum fish that prey on the babies has served to cut back their numbers after a brief recovery in 2012.

To top it off, during this time, a harsh winter also helped to decimate their population, killing 30% of adult crabs in the region. In 2014, the total weight of crabs caught was 37 million pounds, the lowest count ever.

Sixty years ago, the Chesapeake Bay yielded 75% of crabs harvested in the US. Now it yields 35%.

States Are Seeking to Increase Restrictions to Save the Species

Consequently, states have sought and implemented restrictions on fishing for blue crabs in the region. They have reduced the number of female blue crabs allowed by 30%, and some have reduced this number even further when populations continued to plummet.

States estimate that the female populations would have to grow to 215 million to ease up their restrictions, but populations of females who can spawn have only reached 68.5 million, well below accepted levels.

So, to keep the numbers going upward, there has been a drive to curtail the fishing of female crabs who could replenish the population by laying eggs.

To replenish a diminishing population of blue crabs, states have begun restrictions on catching female crabs.

To replenish a diminishing population of blue crabs, states have begun restrictions on catching female crabs.

The scarcity of blue crabs also drives up the price. It is a simple matter of supply and demand; there is a low, and constantly diminishing, supply of blue crabs, yet a heavy demand.

So, there are economic reasons for throwing back those female crabs too; not to mention the obvious ethical and ecological reasons. And the fact that you might not be able to fish and eat them at all in the future if their populations continue to be threatened.

How Can You Tell the DIfference Between a Male or Female Blue Crab?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 NathaNater