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Warmer Water Temperatures Could Lead To More Productive Blue Crab Season, Study Finds

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A recent study released by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science shows that warmer water temperatures could lead to a more productive blue crab season.

The study outlines how the rise in water temperatures will positively affect the blue crab population.

"The warmer water temperature that climate change will bring will allow them to reproduce more quickly," Thomas Miller, of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, said.

Researchers have been monitoring the water temperature off Solomons Island for more than 80 years.

Since 1938, the water temperatures have risen 3.2 degrees. Barely noticeable to touch, but to the blue crab, it makes a huge difference.

"They have this threshold that below 54 inches they go into this dormant phase," Miller said. "Above 54 inches, thereof been around, and so, therefore, degrees doesn't sound much but it's a significant impact on the biology."

Since they've been collecting data, researchers say the blue crab's dormant phase in the Chesapeake has already shortened by one month, and if trends continue it could become non-existent.

"As a climate warms they will become active predators year-round and we don't fully understand the impacts of that," Miller said.

The thought of having fresh crabs year-round could have people calling for a longer harvesting season.

If we open up the season so they can catch crabs here year-round the additional harvest that they can take in the winter might offset the increased growth and the increase reproduction.

If the blue crab population continues to grow the way we manage the crab will also have to adapt so that these summertime favorites are around for years to come.

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