A 54 percent drop in juvenile crab numbers over last year means Virginia watermen could soon see tighter harvest limits for the commercial fishery.
In a Blue Crab Advisory Report released Monday, the Chesapeake Bay Program is encouraging jurisdictions to take a "risk-averse" approach and consider scaling back the fall fishery so young crabs have a chance to grow and spawn next year.
The recommendation comes as the estimate for adult female crabs this year actually increased by 30 percent over last year, to 254 million. That's higher than the target of 215 million considered a healthy female population.
But plummeting juvenile numbers dragged down the overall blue crab population by almost 18 percent, from 553 million last year to 455 million this year.