Recreational crabbing bill approved by Senate panel

Waterfront owners exempted from licensing

March 17, 2001|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,SUN STAFF

A state Senate committee approved yesterday a compromise bill to license recreational crabbers that would exempt owners of waterfront property and those who catch fewer than two dozen crabs a day.

The exemptions were designed to mollify opponents on the Senate Environmental and Economic Affairs Committee who have argued that the license requirements would place an "undue burden" on owners of waterfront property who crab from their docks.

The bill would set a limit of a bushel a day for crabbers with the recreational license, and two dozen crabs a day for those exempted from licensing.

The House Environmental Matters Committee was considering a similar bill, but it is unclear when the members will vote.

A coalition of lower Eastern Shore watermen and crab processors threatened to sue the state over proposed regulations on commercial crabbers, and a commission that advises Virginia's fisheries regulators voted unanimously to do nothing until Maryland makes the first move.

The flurry of activity clouds the future of a Maryland-Virginia agreement to cut the blue crab harvest by 15 percent over the next three years in an effort to restore the declining crab population.

Nevertheless, Maryland Sen. Brian E. Frosh, sponsor of the recreational crabbing bill, saw progress. "It's not where we started out, but it's actually pretty good," the Montgomery County Democrat said.

It was unclear how much money the state would lose by easing the requirement for the $5 license. The Department of Natural Resources is to use the money to determine the effect of recreational crabbing on the harvest.

"The most important recommendation that came out of the Bi-State Blue Crab Commission was to reduce harvest pressure on the blue crab, and this bill that came out of the Senate committee does that," said DNR spokesman John Surrick. "Under the original legislation, everyone would have been limited to a bushel. Under this, it's even better."

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