to Explore New Ways of Managing the Blue Crab Fishery
The Maryland Watermen’s Association (MWA) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have come together to explore alternative management strategies for the Chesapeake Bay blue crab fishery. This joint commitment, solidified by a formal memorandum of understanding, is intended to improve fishery management and increase benefits to watermen.
This unique partnership comes at a critical time in the lives of Chesapeake Bay watermen and the iconic blue crab population, which has been the foundation of Chesapeake Bay culture, heritage and livelihoods for more than a century. In an unprecedented partnership in 2008 to help rebuild the shared resource, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley worked with then-Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to enact regulations reducing female blue crab harvest.
To mitigate the economic impact on the industry, U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), a steadfast leader in protecting the watermen’s way of life, worked with Governor O’Malley to secure disaster assistance funding in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) budget for the blue crab fishery. That funding supported a DNR-initiative to investigate and assess alternative management approaches, which could improve the situation for commercial crabbers while helping in the overall restoration of the Bay.
“Blue crabs are part of who we are as Marylanders, part of our heritage and part of our culture. And so are the watermen of the Chesapeake Bay. I am committed to the Bay and the lives and livelihoods that depend on it,” said Senator Mikulski, Chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NOAA. “When the Maryland’s crab industry dialed 911 during 2008’s Blue Crab disaster, I was on their side fighting for $30 million to provide watermen with work opportunities, while at the same time restoring crab stocks and rebuilding habitats such as oyster reefs. This unique partnership shows Marylanders are looking at the future of the Bay and want a cooperative and coordinated solution for preserving their blue crabs.”
“Maryland’s watermen are ready to lead efforts to protect their livelihood—the Chesapeake blue crab,” says Larry Simns, President of the MWA. “The partnership with EDF is focused on exploring alternative management systems that will protect the heritage of Maryland watermen and the blue crab fishery, and it wouldn’t be possible without the leadership of U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski on behalf of Maryland’s watermen.”
“We’d like to thank Senator Mikulski, the Maryland DNR and the MWA for the opportunity to assist in this effort,” says Tom Grasso, Senior Advisor in the Oceans Program at EDF. “Working together, we believe we can help identify a new economic management structure for the blue crab fishery which will promote a secure and stable livelihood for Maryland’s watermen. This partnership between EDF and MWA is a clear indication of a joint commitment between watermen and environmentalists to being integral partners in an effective solution.”
“We are pleased to support this new partnership between EDF and MWA, which will contribute to our continued efforts to protect and enhance blue crab populations, while also improving economic opportunities for Maryland watermen, our processing industry and the local communities that depend on these jobs,” says DNR Secretary John Griffin.