Higher prices for Maryland Blue Crabs this summer; brutal winter, low supply to blame

If you're planning to have crabs at your Memorial Day cookout, be prepared to spend more this year.
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population is just below safe levels, and that's driving up prices. 
Like so many Marylanders, Felicia Shelton is what you would call a "blue crab enthusiast."
"Yes, yes, yes! Love the crabs!" she said.
Nothing, not even higher prices, can come between her and the tasty crustaceans.
"The crabs are probably going to be a little bit smaller, and I know the prices are going to be a little bit higher, but as for right now, I have to have them, so I don't care what the price is," Shelton said.
It's good news for Pappas Seafood Company. The Parkville staple, along with many other local crab spots, raised prices this year to make up for low supply out of the Chesapeake Bay.
This week, bushel prices for steamed crabs are $350 for larger crabs and $240 for smaller crabs. It all depends on supply.
"It's a little later in the season because it was so cold over the winter," said Ben Fowler, floor supervisor at Pappas. "So, it started later and we're still having a hard time getting crabs in."
The company has stocked up for the busy Memorial Day weekend with crabs from the Gulf region. The hope is to eventually replace them with more Maryland crabs as the weather warms up and the crab population becomes more active.
 "Usually, the season lasts like the beginning of May, right around to the beginning, towards the end of October is when it's usually the best for crabs locally," Fowler said.
More local crabs are good for business and for consumers.
"Everybody wants crabs on a hot weekend," Fowler said. "You want to come out and get a dozen steamed crabs, so we try to keep the prices where they should be."
"I grew up here and you grow up on the Maryland crab and there's nothing that even compares to it, so I gotta have it!" said Shelton.
Prices could come down a bit as the season goes on and more local crabs become available, but Fowler said it's unlikely to budge very much.
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