As of October 29, 2009, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has purchased and permanently retired more than 530 Limited Crab Catcher (LCC) commercial crabbing licenses through its LCC buy-back program. To further reduce latent effort (fishing effort that is not currently deployed) the agency is also proposing a change in regulations governing the LCC License.
“With the purchase of more than 530 licenses, the buy-back program is certainly meeting our expectations,” said DNR secretary John Griffin. “However, while retiring these unused licenses is an important component of our efforts to rebuild the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab population, additional actions are needed to ensure a sustainable fishery.”
The license program, which was launched in July, works on a first-come, first-served basis. With $3 million in Federal disaster funding dedicated to the program, the agency will continue to pay $2,260 per license until the budget is exhausted, or until it has purchased 1,327 — more than one-third — of the 3,676 existing LCC licenses.
“Buying back these licenses is just one step we’re taking to improve the management of the blue crab fishery,” said Fisheries Service Director Tom O’Connell. “We are also looking at ways to improve harvest reporting and working closely with Natural Resources Police to improve enforcement. These actions, along with the Bay wide reduction in female harvest will help maintain a healthy blue crab population in the Chesapeake.”
DNR is proposing new regulations that will require holders of inactive LCC licenses to choose between two options if they do not want to sell back their licenses. DNR developed these options based on extensive public input on the issue of unused commercial crabbing licenses.
1. An inactive licensee can declare the license frozen until the crab population reaches a target abundance, at which time the Department will develop a process for re-entry into the fishery. These licenses will not be permanently retired, and can be transferred during the time it is temporarily frozen. There will be no annual renewal fee for these licenses during the temporary freeze.
2. An inactive licensee can declare the LCC license a “male only” license, allowing only the harvest of male crabs. The licensee will be able to transfer the license only to a family member or leave it to a beneficiary, and the male only license will not revert back to a full license regardless of the abundance of the crab population.
Once a license is declared ‘frozen’ or ‘male only’ the status of the license cannot be changed, even through the transfer process. Currently an LCC holder may use up to 50 crab pots, trotlines, nets, dip nets, traps, pounds and scrapes to harvest crabs for sale.
Over the past year, Maryland was awarded $15 million in Federal Blue Crab Disaster Funds from NOAA‘s National Marine Fisheries Service, in response to a request from Governors O’Malley and Kaine, and advocacy by the Maryland Congressional Delegation under the leadership of Senator Barbara Mikulski.
Maryland’s Federal Blue Crab Fisheries Disaster Funding is being directed toward work for watermen, addressing latent effort, a quality crab meat assurance program, economic diversification into aquaculture, packaging equipment upgrades for processors, a seafood marketing program for blue crabs and enhanced harvest reporting and enforcement of crabbing restrictions.
Over the past two years, Governor Martin O’Malley worked with Maryland legislators to identify $6 million to fund a work program through which more than 500 watermen have conducted oyster bar rehabilitation activities.
For more information on the buy back program, please visit: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/crab/crabindex.html
For more information on the proposed regulation, please visit:
source: MD DNR press release