• Blue crab
    Blue crab   Adult female tagged  
  • bowl_of_tagged_crabs_sm.jpg
      Tagged adult female blue crabs  
  • Juvenile blue crab
    Juvenile blue crab   Microwire and elastomer tag  
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Blue Crab Tagging

Blue Crab

The VIMS Crustacean Ecology Program investigates the movements and survival rates of blue crabs through tagging research.


Adult Females


Adult female blue crabs were tagged from 2001-2005; resulting data were used to estimate survival and natural mortality and to assess the effectiveness of the Chesapeake Bay spawning sanctuary.

  • Survival rates during the study period were low in both winter and summer.
  • The sanctuary appears to be effective; a high percentage of crabs entering the sanctuary appear to remain there to spawn.
  • By combining survival estimates with fishery harvest information and fishery-independent abundance data, Hewitt et al. (2007) were able to provide the first direct estimates of natural mortality rate (M) for this species. Estimates of M are critical to population dynamics and stock assessment models.

Hewitt et al. 2007, Lambert et al. 2006, Lambert et al. 2006




In collaboration with the University of Maryland’s Center of Marine Biotechnology (COMB) and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), VIMS crustacean scientists have tagged and released over 100,000 juvenile blue crabs into the York River during 2004-2006 to enhance blue crab populations. These blue crabs were tagged with a microwire inside their leg and marked with dye.



Hewitt, D.A., D.M. Lambert, J.M. Hoenig, R.N. Lipcius, D.B. Bunnell, and T.J. Miller. 2007. Direct and indirect estimates of natural mortality for Chesapeake Bay blue crab. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 136: 1030-1040.

Lambert, D.M., J.M. Hoenig, and R.N. Lipcius. 2006. Tag return estimation of annual and semiannual survival rates of adult female blue crabs. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 135: 1592-1603.

Lambert, D.M., R.N. Lipcius, and J.M. Hoenig. 2006. Assessing effectiveness of the blue crab spawning stock sanctuary in Chesapeake Bay using tag-return methodology. Marine Ecology Progress Series 321: 215-225.