RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- An annual survey by marine officials shows a significant drop in the number of spawning-age female blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay.
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission says the number of spawning-age female crabs dropped below the minimum safe level of 70 million and are in a depleted state.
While the number of juvenile crabs increased and last year's harvest remained at a safe level for the sixth consecutive year, officials say the total number of crabs remains comparatively low at about 297 million.
The long cold winter is suspected to have contributed to the low numbers. That led to the death of about 28 percent of all adult crabs in Maryland.
Officials say they'll focus on protecting adult females and juvenile crabs and building up the female population.
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