Microbial threat for the blue crab industry

Five years ago commercially important blue crab populations in Chesapeake Bay reached alarmingly low levels, leading local management agencies to impose strong catch restrictions to aid in recovery.Five years later, blue crab numbers have rebounded to levels not seen since the 1990s, providing support for the continued need for science-based management of critical marine resources.

Despite the rebound of crab populations, concerns over the long term health of the bay have not gone away, particularly in light of continued problems with hypoxia, algae blooms and environmental pathogens. One such problem is the presence of the harmful parasitic dinoflagellate Hematodinium, which has the potential for strongly impacting blue crabpopulations.

The research findings of Pitula and colleagues, published this week in Aquatic Biosystems, demonstrate the continued widespread presence of Hematodinium in a Maryland Coastal Bay Ecosystem. This bay system, adjacent to the Assateague Island National Seashore, may serve as a reservoir for blue crab infections in the larger Chesapeake Bay watershed. This work highlights the need for continued monitoring of environmental threats to the biosystem and the development of management efforts to mitigate these threats.

With thanks to Kristen Lycett and Joseph S Pitula for the above image.

Professor Edward Phlips, co-Editor-in-Chief of Aquatic Biosystems

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