The blue crab has achieved iconic status throughout the Chesapeake Bay area, while the pugnacious crustacean and the majestic estuary are national treasures. The shallow waters provide optimal habitat for the species that has been deeply woven into the bay's economic and cultural fabric. Last year, after a respected committee ascertained that the crab was in jeopardy, anticipated future deterioration, and proffered extreme recommendations, Virginia and Maryland imposed draconian strictures which could reduce harvests by one third and help ameliorate the creature's depletion. A recent Executive Order, ambitiously designed by President Barack Obama to safeguard and restore the Chesapeake, illuminates the problem's significance and offers promising strategies. The attempts to halt precipitous decline-which exemplifies the "Tragedy of the Commons" and illustrates numerous acute complications that undermine the ailing watershed's health--constitute bold experiments in aquatic species resource management. These propositions demonstrate that the new efforts merit scrutiny, which this piece undertakes.

Section two traces the history of the venerable blue crab as well as the crustacean's regulation, fall, and perhaps imminent demise. The third part assesses the nascent rules and critically evaluates, and derives lessons from, recent actions. It finds that multiple sources-notably overharvesting and grave pollution--contribute to the organism's dire straits, and the remedies afford helpful immediate protection, but burden commercial crabbers and have unclear long-term effects. The final section details measures to prevent the impending requiem for the last substantial estuarine fishery.

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