The Maryland blue crab is a wonderful creature that helps measure the healthiness of the Chesapeake Bay—and it’s a delicious ingredient in the traditional and famous Maryland crab cakes. This, however, presents a problem in that crab cakes are more popular than the crabs can keep up with. Since demand for crab cakes, along with other crab recipes, is so high the Maryland blue crab is in danger of extinction.
The Threat to the Bay
Last year, 68.5 million fertile female crabs lived in the Chesapeake Bay. While this number sounds large, it is in reality far too small. Experts say that the Maryland blue crab needs 215 million spawning females to maintain the population against the natural threats of cold winter waters and predator species. More to the point, these numbers are needed to combat humans overfishing the bay. At less than a third of the necessary number, the dangers for the crab are immense. Even though the current numbers of females can lay billions of eggs, not all of the young will survive and ultimately contribute to the future population.
Struggling to Save
In 2008, Maryland and Virginia worked together with the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) to slash the numbers of harvested females by 30 percent. This measure worked for a short period of time, but the increased stock crashed last year. Virginia has since reduced the number by a further 10 percent during spawning season. All of this effort may also cause a different issue, though: the Smithsonian worries that fishing groups may turn to over-harvesting males instead. If the males decline enough that the remaining males need to mate more than once, the enduring male population may not be able to keep up with the demands of the crab’s life cycle.
Making the Effort
Currently, the total number of crabs in the bay is 297 million. In 1993, they numbered 852 million. Females take the burden of maintaining the population, ferrying their fertilized eggs up to 150 miles to the mouth of the bay. It is during this time that fishing is opened, and experts suspect too many carrying females are being fished out and sent to market. The best way to replenish the crabs is to limit the number of pregnant females taken out of the water. This is the goal of cutting the female fishing numbers by 10 percent: balance the needs of the Maryland blue crab and the Maryland fishermen. The hope is that by working together, the PRFC can preserve both the crab and the industry.
Located in Abingdon, Maryland, our crab cakes are available year round and can be ordered online to be shipped straight to your front door. Order online here or call us at (410)-515-3662. If you ever have any questions or comments about Box Hill or our Maryland crab cakes, use our contact form here.