Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Bulletin of Marine Science





First Page


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The blue crab, Callinectes sapidus Rathbun, is found in all major coastal habitats along the mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States, including large embayments, barrier island-lagoonal systems, and coastal marsh, mangrove and seagrass systems. Ecologically important, blue crabs may control abundances of other estuarine benthic species (Hines et aI., 1990). The blue crab also supports valuable commercial and recreational fisheries from New Jersey to Texas; commercial landings of 249.3 million pounds of hard blue crabs in 1993 had a dockside value of 126.6 million dollars (NMFS, 1994). Blue crab stocks vary interannually within and between regions as reflected in fishery catch records, which have been compiled since the early 1900s, and in fisheryindependent data sets. This variability apparently is unrelated to fishing pressure and has been attributed to environmental influences on blue crab recruitment.

Published studies of blue crab biology date back to the turn of the century (Hay, 1905), but our understanding of the early life history of the species has been markedly refined over the past 3 decades. The complete larval development (7 zoea and I megalopa) of the blue crab was not described until 1959 (Costlow and Bookhout, 1959), and early accounts of blue crab life history suggested that the larval stages were retained within estuaries (Churchill, 1919; Van Engel, 1958). During the 1960s and early 1970s, however, studies of larval/postlarval distributions indicated that blue crab larvae might not be retained in estuaries but instead are exported to coastal waters with subsequent return by postlarvae (megalopae) or juveniles (Nichols and Keney, 1963; Tagatz, 1968; Dudley and Judy, 1971; King, 1971; Williams, 1971; Sandifer, 1975).