PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — There’s good news for the health of the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab population.

The Virginia Marine Resource Commission says a recent winter dredge survey conducted bay-wide shows a “encouraging signs for a rebound” from recent record lows in the crab population.

They say all categories of crab based on sex and age have shown increases since the 2022 survey, with an overall increase in crab levels from 227 million to 323 million.

Most of these are in adult populations, with adult males up by nearly double and female crabs up to above average levels — the latter is credited to successful management that’s limited overfishing.

“We’re pleased to see over a 50% increase in the adult female numbers in 2023,” said Jamie Green, the commissioner of VMRC, in a press release. “These results are encouraging,
and we’ll continue working diligently with our partners in the Chesapeake Bay to increase blue
crab stock numbers.”

Though the 2023 adult female number of 152 million crabs is still below the target level of 196 million, the VRMC says, and juvenile populations are still considered low at 116 million crabs. The juvenile populations from 2021 to 2023 are among the six lowest in 34 years of the survey.

The winter dredge survey is conducted annually by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and samples crab dredges from 1,500 sites across the Chesapeake Bay from December through March.

This comes after the Chesapeake Bay Foundation gave the overall health of the bay a D-plus in their latest report in January. In that report, the blue crab indicator showed the most decline of any, based on that 2022 dredge survey that showed the lowest number of crabs in the bay in the survey’s 33-year history.

You can learn more about the survey results at the VMRC’s Crab Management Advisory Committee meeting on May 24 at 4 p.m. at the Virginia Marine Resource Commission’s Main Office. That’s located at 380 Fenwick Road at Fort Monroe in Hampton.