Last week, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe attacked the state of Maryland. Not with guns or tanks or machinery, but with words -- words targeting the most precious of state creatures: Maryland blue crabs.
“You know, Maryland talks about its crabs. If anyone from Maryland is listening, I want to make this perfectly clear,” he said in a radio interview with 1140 WRVA. “All the crabs are born here in Virginia and they end up, because of the current, being taken [to Maryland]. So really, they should be Virginia crabs.”
Politifact did some digging on the subject, consulting the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the University of Maryland’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and the website of the Chesapeake Bay Program.
The results were pretty clear: blue crabs are born in Virginia. After mating in the bay, female crabs travel south to waters with higher salinity near the mouth of the bay -- namely, south of the border between Maryland and Virginia.
Have our identities as Marylanders been shattered? Have our entire lives been a lie?
First, crabs are faced with declining numbers and loss of habitat. Next, people say the majority of the crabs consumed in the state aren’t from the state. Now this?
But wait. Crabs may be born south of the border, but they have the sense to come home to the happy waters of Maryland to make a life for themselves. Like anyone, the crabs can’t help where they’re born! And once they grow out of their larvae stage, they come back.
“Offshore, high-salinity waters are used during early larval stages. Larvae move into the estuary and use intertidal marshes, seagrass beds and soft-sediment shorelines as they grow,” reads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s page on the Blue Crab. “Crabs are highly tolerant of temperature and salinity variations and can live in just about any region of the bay.”
That means crabs have a choice, and they choose to swim back home. Because crabs are smart and crabs love Maryland.
And besides, the NOAA website goes on to elaborate, it’s only the female crabs that travel south to give birth to the baby crabs. “In general,” the administration writes, “males remain in lower-salinity waters.” Maryland!
And, by the way, if it weren’t for Maryland, crabs wouldn’t have Old Bay. And what’s a crab without Old Bay? You can thank us later, Virginia.