Crab survey gives little reason to rejoice

April 26, 2011

The Sun's coverage of the state of Maryland crabs ("Crab levels second-highest since 1997," April 20) does a disservice to readers by presenting a distorted view of the real data that came out of the 2011 winter dredge survey. The headline should have read, "Crab levels decline by 30 percent as harvest pressure increases."

Maryland DNR's own data (available on-line) document this worrisome decline, as crab landings have increased dramatically to a level not seen since 1993. Crabbers took 43 percent of all available crabs in 2010.

The Sun seems to have bought into the governor's spin reporting this as good news, despite the fact that the number of juveniles (less than 2.4-inch) declined by more than 40 percent from 2010. This serious decline may affect future populations, and of course the weather takes the blame.

Juvenile crab numbers are now below the long-term average from 1990-2011. And, as reported, the total number of crabs in the bay declined from 658 million in 2010 to 461 million this year, a 30 percent drop.

Since the winter dredge survey began in 1990, crab populations have declined substantially. Where is the governor's sense of shame? Only a few years ago he had to plead with President Bush to declare the blue crab a natural disaster and then gain a $15 million earmark to pay crabbers to pacify them when the female take was limited somewhat.

Talk about finding lemons in the news and making lemonade! The real disaster is the long-term failure to restore the bay and the grasses that crabs depend on, and to regulate the harvest properly. Now the governor will use the lemonade The Sun helped him make to undoubtedly relax crab restrictions next month. Stay tuned.

Rob Lyon, Annapolis

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