Md. Seafood Industry Wonders How to Fix Crab Problem - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Md. Seafood Industry Wonders How to Fix Crab Problem

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CAMBRIDGE, Md.-  Two years ago, the crabs were plentiful.  Over 765 million in all, and prices were low.  But David Burall, chef at Snappers restaurant, says ever since, the number of crabs has gone down, but the price has done nothing but climb.

"Prices have gone up drastically, I mean literally $3 to $4 a pound plus." said Burall.

In a bushel, that adds up quickly.  While crabs from out of state or even out of country can cost much less, Burall and many other chefs and restaurant owners say they will stick with Maryland blue crab.

"I don't use any of that foreign crab meat.  I mean Maryland is where it's at." Burall said.

But the low numbers, only 297 million according to the winter dredge survey, have some scrambling for answers to the problem of the steady decline in crabs.  Aubrey Vincent, a retailer at Lindy's Seafood, believes a measured solution is better than some more radical ideas that have been floated.

"I know there's been some articles where they have discussed completely eliminating the harvest, I don't believe that's the answer.  I don't think having a free for all harvest whatever you want is the answer.  I think we need to meet somewhere in the middle and look at some of the other environmental factors." said Vincent.

She says watermen and the state need to look at other states like the Carolinas and see how they run their fishery, and apply those lessons to the Chesapeake Bay fishery.  But many, like Josh Parker at TL Morris Seafood, still believe an overabundance of rockfish are to blame.

"The rockfish are just destroying them.  They're just going around eating up all the baby crabs and that's what we end up with."  said Parker.

WBOC asked the Department of Natural Resources to weigh in on the debate on how to fix the problem, they sent the following statement.

"Crab abundance is impacted by many environmental factors including weather patterns, coastal currents and natural predators, making these populations highly variable and prone to large swings.  It will be important in the coming year to ensure that fishing is maintained at a safe level and to observe how the population behaves in the coming year or two to determine if we are observing a lasting trend or a short downward swing in abundance.  In the meantime, we will be working with our industry to determine steps to protect female crabs that will spawn during the 2015 season." said Lynn Waller Fegley, Deputy Director of the Fisheries Service.
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