Crabbing limits pose dangers for watermen The Sun's...


May 12, 2001

Crabbing limits pose dangers for watermen

The Sun's editorial "To preserve the crab industry" (May 3) failed to mention some major considerations.

The Sun called Maryland watermen "short-sighted" for in refusing to agree to reduce their catch. No one wants the blue crab to return to its former bountiful quantities more than the watermen. They depend on the crab to put food on their table and a roof over their heads. It is their livelihood.

Don't sell them short by calling them "short-sighted." Listen to what they have to say. Perhaps a common-sense approach can protect the interests of all parties.

The "cowardly state legislators," as The Sun called them, did listen to the concerns of the watermen. Members of the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) Committee took into consideration the estimates of marine biologist Jacques van Montfrans that an estimated 73 million crabs are consumed yearly by the resurgent striped bass.

Has that been considered in the governor's proposed new regulations? No.

Virginia has been highly touted for being progressive in imposing regulations to reduce the crab harvest. However, Virginia watermen won't endure any real hardships compared to what Maryland is asking of its watermen.

Virginia has decided to give all commercial crabbers Wednesdays off from June 6 to Aug. 22. However, the vast majority of Virginia crabbers are "potters." They place bait in wire mesh crab pots, which the crabs are unable to exit once they enter.

Watermen may not be able to empty pots on Wednesday, but what prevents crabs from entering on Wednesday and being harvested on Thursday? Will they abide by Virginia's regulations?

Maryland's proposed regulations would shorten the watermen's workday from 14 hours to eight, for a total reduction of 36 hours per week. Because of the time constraints, watermen will feel pressure to crab during marginal weather, when their safety is threatened.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is also considering shortening the season by one month -- November. But the Virginia season goes year-round. What prevents crabs "saved" from harvest in Maryland from being caught in Virginia? Absolutely nothing. The harvest will simply be transferred to Virginia, which will be the sole beneficiary of its economic impact.

Officials in Maryland hope to reduce the harvest by 5 percent per year over the next three years. Indeed, if these regulations are implemented as proposed, the reduction will be more in the area of 30 percent per year. The blue crab will rebound because there will be very few watermen able to survive such a drastic cut to their income.

Politics aside, we need to take a reasoned look at all the factors contributing to the decline of the Maryland blue crab.

It is not simply a matter of over-harvesting. Maryland and Virginia have to develop a comprehensive approach to assure the blue crab will be enjoyed by future generations and watermen can continue to make a living harvesting them.

Richard F. Colburn, Cambridge

The writer represents the 37th District in the Maryland Senate.

Students react to Sun's reports

Editor's note: As part of their study of rhetoric, an 11th-grade advanced writing class at Baltimore City College High School submitted letters in response to some recent Sun articles. What follows are some of the students' letters.

The purchase of thermal cameras by the Baltimore City Fire Department is a good idea ("Seeing through the smoke," April 25). Having cameras that detect body heat and the source of the fire could save countless lives.

The prices are a little steep, at $9,000 to $25,000 per camera, but it is worth it. Give the fire department the thermal cameras, so they can do their jobs.

Chris Williams, Baltimore

It is sad to see America turn back the hands of time. Centuries ago, if you committed a crime you would be hung or have your head cut off in front of the whole town. Now it seems as if it is happening again ("A pretense of civility unveiled," April 24).

This is the 21st century, not the 18th century. It is very inhumane for someone to be killed while everyone is watching him or her.

Shannon Jenkins Baltimore

I was shocked to read that 22 percent of prisoners are raped at least once during their incarceration ("What sort of people do we want to be," Opinion* Commentary, April 26).

I want to know: How are the rapists getting away with this? Shouldn't the prisoners be watched over well enough to make such injustice known?

If we know how many prisoners are being raped, we should be able to do something about it.

Natasha Hicks, Baltimore

I completely agree that there should be some restriction on how much money a company can donate to political campaigns and candidates ("Make campaign ads free," Opinion

Commentary, April 25). The more money a company puts into a campaign, the more biased candidates may become on issues.

Put yourself in the candidates' shoes: Wouldn't you choose to favor the rich business-people supporting your campaign?

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