Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Virginia Journal of Science





First Page


Last Page



The blue crab, Callinectes sapidus Rathbun, is the only important marketable crustacean in Chesapeake Bay. While this body of water may be regarded as a center of its numerical distribution, blue crabs in the United States range from Cape Cod south to Texas. Their economic importance is indicated by records of the Federal Government which report for the four-year period 1936-39, an annual average of over 82 million hard crabs valued at about $526,000 from Virginia and 56 million worth about $382,000 from Maryland. Soft crab catches in the two states during this period were approximately the same, amounting in each case to over 10 million crabs per year valued at about $210,000. The commercial value of this fishery, shared by Maryland and Virginia, to local tidewater communities warrants careful examination of the economic and production trends in their relation to sound conservation practice.

In view of the need for information on the early development of the blue crab, studies were begun at the Virginia Fisheries Laboratory in 1940. An effort was made to develop a hatching technic for crab eggs under laboratory conditions that might open the way for large scale application under natural conditions. During the summer of 1941, the crab work was extended and intensified in view of reports of a serious shortage of soft crabs, particularly in Maryland. Aiming to answer questions of practical value to the industry and to crab conservation, studies on the hatching of eggs and experiments on water conditions as they affect hatching and survival of crab larvae were stressed.