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NSF: Summer brings crab feasts--and concerns for Chesapeake blue crabs

The bay's iconic blue crab population has dropped to levels not seen since before restrictions were placed on the fishery more than five years ago. What's to blame?
A long and, by Mid-Atlantic standards, brutal winter has been fingered as one culprit. In one of the worst die-offs in recent history, more than a quarter of the Chesapeake's blue crabs perished in the frigid waters.
But that's not the only factor, says disease ecologist Jeff Shields of the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences in Gloucester Point, Va.
"Several commercially important crustacean populations, including blue crabs, have had declines linked to diseases," says Shields. "In most cases, though, the underlying causes have been difficult to pinpoint because crustacean pathogens [infectious agents] aren't very well known."

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