Governor Martin O’Malley pledged support for Maryland’s Congressional Delegation and thanked the Department of Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez for his federal fishery disaster declaration for the Chesapeake Bay blue crab.
O’Malley stated, “We are grateful to Senators Mikulski and Cardin, and our congressional delegation for their leadership in working with the Department of Commerce to secure this critical designation for Maryland’s watermen. Maryland’s blue crab and the traditional fishing industry that it supports face difficult times and the federal funding accompanying the disaster designation will help to preserve the infrastructure of Maryland’s hallmark blue crab fishery, and ensure an active fishery for the future.
This declaration not only helps restore the blue crab population, but it also ensures that the livelihood of our State’s watermen continues to be sustained. While we work with the industry on the State level to rebuild stocks and restructure the fishery, this federal action will help sustain the livelihoods of Maryland’s watermen, whose work is so vital to Maryland’s economy.”
Earlier this year, the O’Malley/Brown Administration coordinated historic action with Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine to rebuild the Chesapeake Bay’s beleaguered blue crab population by reducing the harvest of ecologically valuable female blue crabs by 34 percent in 2008. In May 2008, Governors O’Malley and Kaine requested a disaster assistance evaluation from NOAA‘s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for Chesapeake Bay watermen and women who have suffered economic hardships due to the extremely low and unstable blue crab abundance.
Finding that due to adverse environmental conditions including habitat loss, water quality decline, an overabundance of native and non-native predators, and decimation of key blue crab prey, economic losses to the region’s blue crab fishing industry have accumulated over the last decade, the U.S. Department of Commerce declared a state of disaster for the fishery.