But along with the oyster, the bay blue crab is making a comeback. In the last winter dredge survey, an annual population count funded by the two states, crab numbers were up 66 percent from 2003.
The Chesapeake Bay Program — the regional partnership trying to restore the bay — called it a baby boomlet, with an increase from 207 million juvenile crabs in 2011 to 587 million the next year. The population jumped after Virginia closed its winter dredge season, when watermen dragged heavy metal traps in rivers at a time when mostly females were preparing to reproduce.
The season remains closed, all but ensuring more crabs — and more hungry mouths to feed on mussels, clams and the bay oyster.
Under ocean acidification, oysters won't be able to keep up. "As you're using up your energy, it could make you more vulnerable not just to predators but to disease," Dodd said.