Chesapeake Bay blue crabs coming back slowly, NOAA reports

Good news, sort of: The numbers of hard-shells, peelers, busters, soft-shells, jimmies, sooks, she-crabs, sallies, sponges and other kinds of hilariously named blue crabs are increasing in the fetid waters of the Chesapeake Bay, despite massive life-smothering dead zones.

That's according to the 2011 Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Stock Assessment recently released by NOAA, which examined efforts taken to protect the species over the past three years by Virginia, Maryland and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. However, the population growth doesn't mean that Maryland's state crustacean is out of danger. Quite the opposite, reports NOAA, which says the stock was "more depleted than originally believed and will take longer to rebuild than had been expected."

After a near-historic decimation of spawning crabs in 2008, Chesapeake watermen (and waterwomen) pulled in a nice haul of about 90 million crustacean pounds last year. Not all are happy about this new assessment, which establishes stricter limits on fishing for female crabs (those would be the sooks). Because there are more females in the waters of the lower bay, Virginia crabbers seem to get the bad end of the deal here, reports the Virginian Pilot:

"There's been a Maryland bias for years," said Pete Nixon, a Norfolk crabber and president of the Lower Chesapeake Bay Watermen's Association. "Let me tell you, they're happy as a lark up there today, and it's by design. We're the ones down here getting hit with all this 'new' science and regulations."

From a consumer standpoint, I would argue that there's been a Vietnam bias, as most of the crabs D.C. residents eat nowadays come from the Far East.

Read the entire assessment in PDF form here. But be warned: There's a racy picture of crabs "coupling" on the very first page.