By Rayyan Ahmad
Beware to all fishermen and crab enthusiasts of the United States East Coast, there is a change transpiring that may change the very balance of the United States. The population of blue crabs has been declining in the last 2-3 years. Marine biologists believe this population loss is due to
pollution and climate change, while other scientists believe it is caused by nutrient loading and crabbing. Nutrient pollution is the process where too many nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, are added to bodies of water from fertilizer, causing algae blooms. Nutrients can run off of land in urban areas where lawn fertilizers are used.
Families all over the contiguous United States eat crabs, and especially during the summer, during this season alone approximately 50.9 million pounds of crab was harvested for consumption, according to Management of the Blue Crabs, created by the MD Department of Natural Resources. Liam Hayden, a Sophomore at GHS claims that “Being someone who lives in a family of crab eaters, it's a necessity. My parents and siblings eat crab all the time.” Other than eating, crabs are also caught for sport, which is quite famous in Maryland.
Even though an excess of crabbing is taking place, due to the abundance of these crustaceans in the Chesapeake bay and the Atlantic Ocean, it has not become a serious problem until very recently. From 2016 to 2018, the number of crab went from around 250 million to less than 125 million, and is projected to decrease further in the years to come.
Before this problem can be solved, Americans must first understand why the crab population in the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean is decreasing. Part of the problem is due to over crabbing. After fishermen use crab traps to fish for crabs, the traps are left in the water. This action causes many more crabs to become ensnared, more than needed due to most crab traps used on the East Coast being large enough to capture at least a dozen crabs. When fishermen arrive at the traps again, they find more crabs that are not needed and will go to waste because there is now an overabundance of crabs, which means these new crabs that have been caught will not be eaten, thus going to waste, causing a decrease of their population.
So what needs to be done? One solution is to limit crab traps placed in the water or amount of crabs caught. This solution has already been implemented in some states by their respective state governments to prevent too much crab loss. For example according to Georgia Fishing Regulations, no one in the state of Georgia may possess a 2x2 ft maximum crab trap. In Maryland crab traps must be at a max of 20 x 15 inches and there is a need for a crab license. Sophomore Matt Skovron believes that if these limitations are set “ The price for crab meat will go up and companies that sell crabs or condiments meant for crabs like Old Bay will have a hard time in business due to the scarcity of crab chow.” The problem of crab meat could then plummet the economy and cause other effects to occur such as less tourism in states that are well known for there crabs such as Virginia.
Another problem in the bay that affects the crabs and other marine life is the amount of pollution. Deforestation causes loose soil to be swept with rain into the bay. This causes sunlight to barely penetrate the ocean causing global cooling because the sunlight will not penetrate the water due to the turbidity(clarity) which makes it difficult for the crabs to survive in because they live in warmer waters. This can be improved by planting trees near the banks of the bay to prevent soil from entering it.
Despite the issues taking place with the crabs, there are companies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that restore the bay and its marine life including crabs. The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee in the NOAA, includes scientists and resource managers from around the Bay watershed, analyze data to develop the annual Blue Crab Advisory Report. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also has a volunteer program that many people can sign up for to clean local creeks and rivers that inevitably go to the bay. The cleaner the creeks and rivers are, the more crabs there are available to be feasted. Long live the Crabs.