Maryland's Crab Industry Struggles to Stay Afloat - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

No Crab Pickers in Sight, Maryland's Crab Industry Struggles to Stay Afloat

Posted: May 03, 2018 6:29 PM Updated:
A bushel of "sooks", or female crabs (Photo:WBOC) A bushel of "sooks", or female crabs (Photo:WBOC)

HOOPER'S ISLAND, Md. - Nearly half of Maryland crab houses have no workers after their mostly-Mexican workers failed to get visas, forcing seafood businesses like AE Phillips in Fishing Creek to shut down completely.

It's a tough time for general manager, Morgan Tolley, who says he has to turn away multiple watermen a day.

In January, the U.S. government received a record 81,000 applications - a far cry from the 33,000 available between the months of April and September. This year, the government chose to use a lottery system.

Places like AE Phillips and Russell Hall Seafood, also in Fishing Creek, were not picked.

"Right now, we have nothing," Russell Hall Seafood owner, Harry Phillips, said. "It's a ripple effect. It affects a lot of people - hundreds of people."

Both Phillips and Tolley say the visas are necessary. Without them, they can't afford to hire American workers and continue with business.

In May, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to release another 15,000 visas nationwide, but seafood businesses say it's not enough.

Lawmakers like Congressman Andy Harris say they're still working to adjust the visa cap. Meanwhile, Gov. Larry Hogan wrote to both the departments of Homeland Security and Labor, pleading on behalf of the Maryland crab industry.

There are some winners though. Further uptown, crab pickers were busy hacking away inside GW Hall Seafood.

As for Tolley, he's still waiting to place his bets.

"I'm in it to win it, but I don't know if I can win it," Tolley said.

A good portion of H2-B visas were given out to states in the South following a number of natural disasters.

 

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