The Maryland Blue Crab is back, potentially opening the door to changes in how many can be caught and efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources said that its winter survey found a record level of spawning females. In fact, they found more than are even considered healthy for the habitat.

"The healthy abundance of adult crabs in the Chesapeake Bay bodes well for crabbers in the first half of the 2017 crabbing season," said the department.

"The overall population of crabs was estimated at 455 million, the 11th highest level recorded by the survey. The spawning female stock increased 31 percent, from 194 million to 254 million, exceeding the healthy target level of 215 million for the first time since 2010," said the department.

It added, "While the survey indicates the population has slightly decreased due to lackluster recruitment, it showed a surge in spawning-age female crabs to the highest level recorded in the 28-year history of the baywide survey."

Overall, it called the crab "resiliant" and harvests "sustainable."

That could lead to a change in state limits and ease the criticism of the Trump administration's bid to cut spending for Bay cleanup efforts.

"Despite the modest number of young crabs, the total population remains stable and the number of spawning age females – a major scientific benchmark for the health of the species – rose," Fishing and Boating Services Director David Blazer said in a statement. "This is testament to the state's adaptive and effective management of the fishery."

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at