Ladies and gentlemen: Grab your bibs.

By Marisa Spyker
May 28, 2019
John M. Chase/Getty Images

Between epidemics of coral bleaching and sea star wasting, it can often seem like the welfare of our oceans and waterways is pretty dim. But while our beloved blue planet has its share of challenges, there are also plenty of reasons to be hopeful—and the results of a recent scientific survey in the Chesapeake Bay is one of them.

According to an annual study conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the population of the Chesapeake Bay’s famed blue crabs is booming, with nearly 600 million adults and juveniles estimated to be living in the bay’s waters in 2019.

That’s a staggering leap from just a year ago, when the number of crabs weighed in at just 371 million. This year, the healthy increase puts the blue crab population at its highest point since 2012, with spawning-age females—a big indicator of future population growth, according to scientists—up 29 percent since last winter. “The female abundance of blue crabs is close to our target, and the juvenile population is above average,” said Michael Luisi, fisheries monitoring and assessment director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

This is, of course, great news for the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, and a key indicator that scientific efforts to help the population recover—including initiatives to control harvesting, mitigate pollution, and restore oyster reefs, where crabs often feed—may be working.

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But a healthy population is also a huge bonus for the coastal Virginia and Maryland economies and, let’s be honest, for our stomachs, too. Many Chesapeake watermen rely on a stable supply of blue crab for their livelihoods. And for restaurants and seafood dives, the Old Bay-dusted delicacy is a summer menu staple.

With populations up, experts expect a strong 2019 crabbing season and, with juvenile crabs doubled since last year, the trend to continue through 2020.

So, fellow crab lovers, now is the time to go on and get crackin’.