Eat Local, Support Local
While you’re munching on delicious crab cakes during Crab Cake Week (June 01 to June 09 in Richmond and Williamsburg, VA), keep in mind that you’re supporting restaurants that are making your meal with local, sustainably harvested, Chesapeake blue crab. What does that mean? Well, some might be concerned that by eating crab cakes they’re working to harm the blue crab population in the Chesapeake Bay, but as a matter of fact there are a lot of people and a lot of organizations working together to make sure that these crabs are harvested at a healthy, sustainable rate. So in a sense, you can figuratively have your (crab) cake, and eat it too!
Not only are you supporting your local restaurant, a restaurant that is making your meal with local crab, you’re also supporting the restoration and protection of the Bay. With proceeds from the sale of each crab cake going toward the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, you’re contributing to the Alliance’s mission to lead, support, and inspire local action to restore and protect the lands, rivers, and streams of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
So while we’re celebrating the reciprocative nature of buying local → eating local → supporting local, let’s also celebrate the hard work that ensures a sustainable harvest of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab!
Crabs in general are found almost everywhere in the ocean, many live in fresh water, and some even live deep beneath the sea near volcanic hydrothermal vents. And we’re very fortunate that Callinectes sapidus, the “savory swimmer,” is found very close to home in our own estuary, the Chesapeake Bay. Very fortunate, indeed, because our blue crab comprises the most valuable fishery in the Bay, with 2017’s Virginia Seafood’s “Landings & Value” report stating that Virginia commercial watermen harvested over 30 million pounds of blue crab valued at over $38,000,000 dockside value!
But 30,000,000 pounds of blue crab sure is a lot! How do we ensure that our savory swimmer, the blue crab, is not a victim of overfishing? Well, the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee assess the sustainability of the blue crab stock by comparing the percentage of the female blue crab population harvested each year to a 25.5 percent target and a 34 percent overfishing threshold. As long as the female harvest levels are below these “reference points,” the blue crab population is considered safe and not at risk of overfishing!
These stock assessment surveys are critical — especially when one considers the blue crab mating cycle. Females only mate once in their life, and release their eggs in higher-salinity waters closer to the Atlantic, at which point larval blue crabs have to rely on favorable currents to carry them into the Bay, where they spend their adult lives.
Keep all this in mind June 01 to June 09, and rest assured that as you dine on your crab cake at one of your favorite local restaurants, there are many organizations working hand-in-hand to ensure that our blue crab, the Chesapeake Bay’s most valuable fishery, is maintaining healthy, sustainable levels. So as we mentioned before, you can have your crab cake and eat it, too!