Here is the article that he references:
From the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's "Fisheries Focus", April 2011
The remarkable and ongoing recovery of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab is an inspiring example of what can be achieved through decisive fisheries management. State officials have brought one of the world’s largest blue crab fisheries back from the brink of collapse to healthy abundance in three years.
They have done this in a region known for degraded water quality, expanding dead zones, and large populations of crab predators such as striped bass. They did it during the bottom of the recession, amid strong criticism from lawmakers who questioned the scientific basis for the cutbacks, and in spite of vocal and angry fishermen (some who sued to block action, and others who purposely inflated their landings reports to game the harvest cuts.) They did it because scientists told them the stock was dangerously close to collapse, having declined 70% over the past 15 years.
Although blue crabs can be found in the estuarine waters from Maine to Florida, they are not managed through the Commission. Instead, the individual states promulgate their own crab management plans. Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission coordinate the management of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. The rebuilding strategy is based on the blue crab’s life history.
Females mate once in life (while soft) during their terminal molt and are capable of producing multiple clutches of fertilized eggs for several years afterwards. Impregnated females migrate to the higher-salinity areas of the lower Chesapeake Bay to produce larvae and over-winter. Crabs are taken in Maryland and Virginia from early spring to mid-fall with traps and trot lines. The fishery ends when water temperatures drop and crabs burrow into the mud to hibernate.
However for nearly a century, fishermen in the lower Bay have targeted the highly concentrated female segment of the population during the winter, using dredge gear, a harvest method scientists say kills two crabs for each one retained. Watermen with few sources of winter income prosecuted the fishery exclusively in Virginia waters. Although stocks had been depressed for more than a decade, management action was stalled by fishermen’s opposition to management measures and differences between the two states on how to deal with the winter dredge fishery.
The deadlock was broken in 2007 when Governors Tim Kaine (VA) and Martin O’Malley (MD) agreed to direct their agencies to develop stiff rules that significantly cut harvest of female crabs and shut down Virginia’s winter dredge fishery in 2008. Federal funds were used to buy out hundreds of active and latent licenses in both states reducing immediate fishing pressure and protecting the recovery from a resurgence in effort. These funds were also used to help fishermen hardest hit by the restrictions.
The response in the number of overwintering crabs as measured by the winter survey was dramatic -- a more than 300% increase in crabs from 2008 to 2010. Dr. Ron Lipcius, a crab expert at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, has been widely quoted explaining the results, “The sharp increase in crab abundance was not a random event, nor was it due to improved environmental conditions. It was clearly due to management actions. Now we have to ensure that these females survive to spawn this summer, and that their offspring produce a healthy spawning stock for coming years.”
Perhaps as significant as the recovery itself is the continued commitment from Governors Bob McDonnell (VA) and O’Malley to stay the course, as both have publicly noted “two years does not make a trend.” The results of the 2011 winter survey will be released later in April, but scientists and managers are expecting it to show increased numbers.
Limiting fishing mortality is the primary tool fisheries managers have to do their job. Yet, they are frequently told to avoid action because factors beyond their control could be affecting stock abundance. Back in 2008 Governors Kaine and O’Malley listened to scientific advice and used the one tool at their disposal to restore blue crabs – harvest controls. Today, in light of their results, their courage to act should be a lesson for us all.