WASHINGTON — Get ready to break out the wood mallets and the Old Bay — it looks like it’s going to be a good summer for Chesapeake Bay blue crabs.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources says its 2016 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey found a 35 percent increase in the crab population compared with last year. That’s especially good news because it follows last year’s 38 percent increase.
Crabs burrow into the mud in the cold winter months, giving scientists the opportunity to dredge samples and develop accurate estimates of the population.
Scientists say a milder winter, favorable currents and sound management have allowed the crab population to rebound.
“With an increase in abundance and steady recruitment, we fully anticipate a robust crab season this year,” Fisheries Service Director Dave Blazer said.
The survey indicates there are 553 million crabs in the bay — the fourth-highest level in two decades.
Improvements have been found among all age groups of male and female crabs. The DNR says those improvements could lead to a slight adjustment upward in harvest limits for female crabs this summer, but also caution that the population and reproduction of blue crabs is still cause for concern.