‘Design team’ works for sustainable crab industry

With a shared long-term goal of keeping Maryland’s blue crab industry a vital part of the state’s economy, a team of more than 30 volunteers from various counties and organizations has formed with the sole mission of improving crab management throughout the state’s waterways.

The Blue Crab Industry Design Team, which has met monthly for the past seven months and works collaboratively with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, is in the beginning stages of developing a new approach to blue crab management and will make recommendations that aim to protect and strengthen the industry and watermen who make their living off blue crab fisheries, according to Kate Culzoni, blue crab project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, which provides support to the design team.

Culzoni joined Calvert County Watermen’s Association President Tommy Zinn and CCWA design team representative Irving Chapelear of Benedict on Nov. 29 as they presented the design team’s plans to the Calvert County commissioners.

“We’re helping build sustainable fisheries aligned with conservation goals,” Culzoni said. “To be successful, solutions have to come from the ground up,” so EDF created a team of interested parties who make their livings from blue crab fishing. “We provide technical expertise, try to build consensus on ways to improve fishing.”

Once recommendations are made in a few months, DNR may begin implementing pilot projects using the team’s input, Culzoni added.

“It’s one of the first efforts of this type, and I think it will end up being really successful,” she said.

The Maryland blue crab is the most valuable commercial fishery species in the Chesapeake Bay, according to the design team’s presentation. It is the third most valuable fishery in the Mid-Atlantic region and supports tens of thousands of watermen, restaurants, seafood retail stores and related businesses statewide.

The team’s meeting discussions include crafting ways to increase industry accountability, ensure license holders maintain the ability to participate in the fishery in the future, improve the profitability of the industry and come up with a co-management partnership between the commercial industry and DNR.

“DNR is always very concerned about overfishing and putting limits on crab catching,” Zinn said, like placing restrictions on the number of female crabs that can be caught, but he added that for now “the crab industry is very sound.” This year watermen were able to harvest 55 percent of the total stock, he said. “Crabs are healthy, the price is stable.”

A supporter of the design team, Zinn said, “We’re trying to come up with new ways to make the crab be here for our children and their children.”

“I think we’re doing a long-term good thing for the crab,” Chapelear said.

Commissioners’ President Susan Shaw (R) asked the representatives to let the board know if there is any way the local commissioners can help with the efforts as the team’s plans move forward.

“We’re really glad this effort is going on,” she said. “Obviously we want to continue to be able to eat crabs, and we want to continue to have being a waterman as a viable occupational choice.”

To learn more about the Blue Crab Industry Design Team, go to http://www.watermenway.com.

Source / Fuente: www.somdnews.com

Author / Autor: Meghan Russell

Date / Fecha: 09/12/11

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