Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Special Reports in Applied Marine Science and Ocean Engineering (SRAMSOE) No. 391


The blue crab spawning stock in Chesapeake Bay sustained a severe and persistent decline beginning in 1992. As part of the effort to enhance the spawning stock, the spawning sanctuary in lower Chesapeake Bay was enlarged to over 240,000 ha. This marine reserve and corridor prohibits exploitation of mature females en route to or in the spawning grounds during the summer spawning season (1 June-15 September). To assess the effectiveness of the sanctuary, we tagged terminally molted, mature females inside and outside the sanctuary during three sanctuary seasons (2002-2004). Crabs were captured throughout the Bay and its tributaries, measured, tagged, and released on site. Recaptures of tagged crabs were reported by commercial and recreational fishers. Probability of recapture for crabs released outside of the sanctuary was 6.3, 5.2, and 2.8 times the probability of recapture for crabs tagged inside the sanctuary for 2002, 2003 and 2004, respectively. Consequently, a significant proportion of adult female blue crabs remains in the sanctuary to spawn and is not captured by the fishery. Hence, the marine reserve and corridor for the blue crab spawning stock in Chesapeake Bay is an effective means of protecting females migrating to or residing in the spawning grounds. This investigation serves as one of the few empirical tests to date of the effectiveness of a marine reserve designed to protect spawning stock.



Blue Crabs, Fisheries



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