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State eases crabbing restrictions

With the Chesapeake Bay's crab population up 60 percent over last year, Maryland fisheries officials announced a "minor" relaxation this fall in commercial catch restrictions that have pinched the state's watermen the past two years.

The state Department of Natural Resources is moving to drop a nine-day ban on catching female crabs that had been scheduled to run from Sept. 26 to Oct. 4. Officials said the move would give watermen more opportunities to earn income catching crabs without jeopardizing the population. Another short ban on catching females in June remains in effect, along with daily catch limits and a closure to female harvest on Nov. 10.

Virginia, which also curbed its watermens' harvest of female crabs two years ago, also is easing its restrictions modestly, Maryland officials note. Virginia is extending by two weeks the time when female "dark sponge" crabs carrying egg sacs are allowed to be harvested.

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