by Alicia Pimental
January 01, 2009
NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service has awarded Maryland $2.2 million in federal fishery disaster funding to assist the state’s watermen and help revitalize the Bay’s struggling blue crab industry.
The $2.2 million is the first installment of $10 million the state expects to receive from the federal government over the next three years. The funding comes four months after the National Marine Fisheries Service declared a federal fishery disaster for the soft shell and peeler segments of the Bay’s blue crab fishery.
“The State of Maryland will invest this money in the essential habitat restoration projects and new economic opportunities that will help rebuild our blue crab population and ensure a stronger industry in the future,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Maryland will use the federal funding to:
- Hire watermen to monitor blue crabs, restore sensitive habitats in the Bay and remove lost or abandoned crab pots that harm blue crabs.
- Enforce blue crab regulations.
- Focus on aquaculture by providing scholarships for aquaculture-related college courses.
- Invest in new crab processing methods, such as improved shell removal from crabmeat and safe, innovative packaging designs.
- Restructure the blue crab fishery to provide longer-term predictability and greater market stability for the regional crab industry.
The federal funding adds to $3 million in state funds that Maryland has set aside to employ watermen and assist seafood businesses affected by the crab decline.
Virginia is also eligible for $10 million in federal aid to help watermen affected by the blue crab fishery failure. The National Marine Fisheries Service is still working with Virginia on its plan to use the funding.
In spring 2008, Gov. O’Malley and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine came together to set new regulations that reduced female blue crab harvest in the Bay by 34 percent. Overfishing and pollution are cited as two causes that have led to the decline of the blue crab, an iconic Chesapeake species.
Residents of the Bay watershed can do their part to reduce pollution and help the Bay’s blue crabs by:
- Not fertilizing lawns.
- Driving less.
- Picking up after pets.
- Installing rain barrels and rain gardens.
- Planting trees and shrubs.
- Adhering to recreational crabbing regulations. (See recreational blue crab regulations in Maryland and Virginia.)
For more information about the federal blue crab funding, visit Maryland DNR’s website.