Protection now for blue crab

Alarming decline: State needs to cut crustacean harvest to sustain vital creature of the Chesapeake.

April 07, 2001

MARYLAND must take the lead in protecting the health of the threatened Chesapeake blue crab.

Annual harvest numbers are declining and biologist surveys show a shrinking stock of the shellfish that defines our bay.

Measures to reduce the crab harvest and restore the adult spawning population are necessary now, without waiting to see what Virginia will do.

Limits on both commercial and recreational crabbers are required, without further delay because of mutual finger-pointing.

Fishing time and equipment for commercial watermen need to be trimmed back, as the Department of Natural Resources has rightly and reasonably proposed.

Licensing and daily limits for recreational crabbers are necessary, both to curb overfishing and to give fisheries managers a firm handle on the number of crabs taken by unlicensed fishers.

The Bi-State Blue Crab Advisory Committee urged Maryland and Virginia to take immediate action to reduce crab catches. A 15 percent reduction from current harvest levels is needed to sustain the declining numbers of crabs in the estuary.

The lessons of the rockfish and shad illustrate how overfishing, and delayed action, push valuable species to the brink and result in abrupt bans. Declining numbers of migratory Canada geese also illustrate the harsh consequences of short-sighted greed.

If Maryland legislators, now wrapping up their annual session, and regulators find the courage to do what is required, Virginia is certain to follow suit and honor its joint commitment.

No one gains from this childish game of you-go-first. It's in everyone's best interest to protect this vital element of the Chesapeake.

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