Here’s why workers are digging Chesapeake Bay blue crabs out of the mud this month

Published on: January 24, 2023 6:00 AM EST

Capt. Roger Morris holds out a blue crab from the Chesapeake Bay dredged in January.
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Every year about this time, crews from Maryland’s and Virginia’s natural resources departments head out onto the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries on boats. Workers are dredging the muddy bottom in the water for crabs, not for the steamer, but for research. It’s called the winter dredge survey. State employees use the information they get to develop harvest regulations for commercial crabbers.

Shaun Miller, a biologist with Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, says they have to do it in the winter because that’s when crabs hibernate, when they “bury themselves in the mud.”

Miller said that winter is ideal because, “this is the only time of the year that they’re not mobile,” he explained. “If we tried to do the same thing and get an estimate during the summertime, it’d be impossible.”

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