January 11, 2009

Crab boycott ignores complexity of issue

Dan Rodricks recently reminded readers of his boycott of crabs - while imploring others to join him ("Love crabs? Don't eat them," Commentary, Jan. 4). Mr. Rodricks also suggests that a moratorium on the crab harvest is the answer to the faltering crab population, as it was for the rockfish dilemma. But I beg to differ.

For one thing, because of the rockfish moratorium and extreme regulations on the rockfish catch (commercial and recreational), there are now too many rockfish. Rockfish are eating machines, and guess what their favorite food is? Peelers and small crabs.

Second, Maryland is all about crabs; we love our crab feasts with family and friends. It's a deep-seeded part of our culture.

We could live without rockfish (nobody has rockfish feasts), but don't ask us to give up our blue crabs. That's like asking Floridians not to eat oranges or Cajuns to give up crawdads or Californians to stop drinking wine.

Third, don't ask a fourth-generation waterman to go plant trees. It is absurd to think watermen would accept such a call.

Why not instead impose a moratorium on harvesting trees (we all know trees are overharvested) and ask all the writers and editors of newspapers to drop their pens and laptops and pick up hoes and bags of seeds?

The blue crab dilemma is complex. The problem is a multifaceted one involving pollution, runoff, excessive development in the watershed, greater demand for blue crabs, overfishing, etc.

The thriving soft crab industry is also putting a serious hurt on the hard crab harvest.

Addressing the overfishing issue with strict regulations on the fall female crab harvest would be a good start. And increasing the minimum size of peelers that can legally be caught wouldn't hurt either.

But to penalize the watermen with a crab moratorium is wrong.

A multifaceted problem needs a multifaceted solution.

Richard Anderson, Forest Hill

The writer owns two crab houses in Harford County.

Boycott the source of pollution instead

Dan Rodricks is at again ("Love crabs? Don't eat them," Jan. 4). But comparing a rockfish moratorium to one for crabs is so shortsighted as to be ridiculous.

Drive anywhere in the Baltimore area and look at all the crabhouses. Then look for any rockfish houses.

Mr. Rodricks' plan for a boycott of crabs could force hundreds of restaurants to close down.

Maybe all of us in the industry could work for the state, as he suggests the watermen do.

But I'm not sure where the state would get the funds to pay for that if so many businesses were to shut down.

Crabs may be in short supply, but if Mr. Rodricks wants to help the situation, he should boycott the cause of the problem, not the end product.

Let's stop buying chicken and all the vegetables grown on farms in the Chesapeake basin.

Let the farmers plant trees for the state.

Dan Schuman, Eldersburg

The writer owns a crab house.

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