The Chesapeake Bay Has a Big Case of Crabs

The Chesapeake Bay Has a Big Case of Crabs

Photo by Keviikev

Get out the Old Bay and remoulade, because this year’s haul of blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay is set to be the best in two decades, according to a joint press release from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

After a four-year restocking program, Virginia and Maryland officials estimate there are now 764 million blue crabs living in the bay, more than any time since 1993, and a 66 percent increase over last year’s population of about 460 million.

The repopulation program was started after the number of crabs in the bay sunk to just 249 million in 2007, and caught the attention of O’Malley’s government and that of then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, both Democrats. McDonnell, a Republican, called the program a “bipartisan success story” in the press release.

With the population so robust now, both states are expecting a flush crab market later this year when the specimens mature and are ready to be fished. The Chesapeake Bay produced 67.3 million pounds in 2011.

Just why is the crab population in the waters off Maryland and Virginia so resurgent? Credit the warm winter, according to a study earlier this year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency reported that in previous years, cold ocean temperatures produced large fish kills, including a mortality rate of as high as 30 percent in blue crabs. But with last winter’s aberrant warmth, NOAA forecasted this year’s Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey would show a much fuller population.

But what is to be done with all these crabs. More crab cakes, obviously, which McDonnell suggests pairing with a “nice Virginia white wine.” Sounds fine, though in Maryland we’ll take ours with a National Bohemian or perhaps a New Belgium Somersault Ale.

And perhaps we’ll use this recipe from Food.com and adapted from Faidley’s in Baltimore’s Lexington Market:

For crab cakes:
1 lb large lump crabmeat , picked over
1 cup crushed saltine
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 egg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 dash Tabasco sauce
vegetable oil (for frying) (optional)
clarified butter (optional) or olive oil , for saut

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