The Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab: An Update

You remember, of course, the Grinder’s coverage of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab fishery last month: Officials were warning of severe catch restrictions; crabbers were waiting nervously.

We’re here to report that things have, in fact, gotten worse: In a first for any Chesapeake Bay industry, the Maryland governor is asking the feds to declare the blue crab fishery a federal disaster. Since new regulations, which reduce the catch of female crabs by a third, will threaten the livelihood of many watermen, the federal money—possibly $15 million—would go to retraining the fishermen for aquaculture and oyster reef restoration projects. But the relevant federal agency won’t declare a disaster if it concludes that poor management—say, catch limits that are too high—caused the problem. In short, you can’t fish a population into the sand and then call it a natural disaster.

Choice detail, from the Annapolis Capital’s description of Senator Barbara Mikulski: “Ms. Mikulski, who wore a crab-shaped lapel pin, said watermen are an important part of the Chesapeake Bay culture.” Wait—does that mean the other politicians weren’t wearing crab pins?