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Research Required to Save the Crab

US - UM scientist says the population of the Chesapeake Bay's trademark crustacean can be brought back - if money for 'very aggressive' research can be found again, reports the Baltimore Sun.

Eight years ago, a chance question at a Maryland General Assembly hearing put Yonathan Zohar on a path to unlocking the secrets of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab.

The Jerusalem-born, Paris-educated endocrinologist answered questions about techniques he used at his Inner Harbor lab to enhance the breeding stock of certain fish. Today, Zohar is using the same techniques to help reinvigorate the once-robust crustacean. He and his team have spent more than $12 million - most of it courtesy of a federal earmark from Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski - mapping out the blue crab's life cycle in their hatchery and placing the crabs in the bay to watch how they lived.

The director of the Center for Marine Biotechnology at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute said researchers are ready for the next stage - creating millions of baby crabs in the hatchery, then releasing them into the bay to enhance breeding stocks. But their funding was not renewed this year, so the researchers are figuring out how to continue their project.

Meanwhile, the bay's blue crab population continues to slide. Last month, officials in Maryland and Virginia announced crabbing restrictions in hopes of reducing the harvest by a third.

View the The Baltimore Sun story by clicking here.