Governor O'Malley Praises AELR Committee For Support Of Blue Crab

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Governor O'Malley Praises AELR Committee For Support Of Blue Crab Regulations

5/23/08

Regulations to Reduce Female Crab Harvest Will Take Effect June 1

Annapolis, Maryland - Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley praised yesterday's decision by the General Assembly's Joint Committee of Administrative, Executive, Legislative Review (AELR) to support emergency regulations designed to reduce Maryland's female blue crab harvest by 34 percent. The regulations, which are necessary to begin rebuilding the diminished fishery, will take effect on June 1, 2008.

"I want to thank Senator Paul Pinsky, Delegate Anne Healey and the other members of the AELR Committee for their leadership and decisive action," said Governor O'Malley. "In their vote today, our state senators and delegates supported a science-based conservation strategy that will help rejuvenate our declining blue crab population and ensure this iconic symbol of Maryland will become stronger and more sustainable for the future.

"We simply cannot sustain a healthy population when we are harvesting nearly 60 percent of all the available crabs in the Bay every year," Governor O'Malley said. "Our scientists have determined that to prevent a catastrophic fishery failure we must limit our annual harvest to no more than 46 percent. That's what these regulations are designed to do."

At a public hearing today, the AELR voted 10 to 2 in support of implementing the emergency regulations proposed by the O'Malley Administration.

"We have an historic opportunity and responsibility to reduce fishing pressure in order to start rebuilding our blue crab population. We must continue to look beyond tomorrow to ensure that the Bay, the blue crabs, and the fishery are there for our children and their children," said Senator Paul Pinsky.

The Chesapeake Bay blue crab population has declined 70 percent since the early 1990s, leading to historic low harvests in both Maryland andVirginia in 2007. Under Governor O'Malley's direction, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began scoping preliminary regulatory ideas in February 2008 and has facilitated 11 public and Advisory Commission meetings, as well as an ongoing online comment process. The final regulatory proposal approved today reflects input from more than 600 stakeholders, including recreational and commercial crabbers, local businesses, conservation organizations and concerned citizens.

The regulations also reflect an unprecedented collaboration with the Commonwealth of Virginia that culminated in an agreement to reduce the harvest of female crabs in both states by 34 percent in 2008. In April, under the leadership of Governor Tim Kaine, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission adopted new blue crab regulations that closed Virginia's winter dredge fishery and also shortened the state's fall crab season.

Maryland's emergency regulations for the 2008 Chesapeake Bay commercial blue crab fishery include an early closure to the season for harvesting female crabs as well as catch limits on female crabs earlier in September and October. Commercial harvest of female crabs will be prohibited beginning October 23 and individualized catch limits will be effective beginning September 1, based on a waterman's recent annual average reported harvests. The emergency regulations for the 2008 Chesapeake Bay recreational fishery prohibit any female blue crab harvest, effective immediately.

"Under the O'Malley Administration, Maryland is taking strong action to ensure sustainable fisheries for current and future generations," said DNR Secretary John Griffin. "We are all heartened and encouraged by the action taken by our legislative leaders today, our historic collaboration withVirginia, and the continued leadership and support of our Governor."

To mitigate the potential economic impact to commercial crabbers and other businesses, Governor O'Malley worked with the General Assembly to secure $3 million in state capital funds during the recently completed legislative session. Governor O'Malley and Governor Kaine have also joined withMaryland's U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin in seeking federal disaster relief funds to provide alternative economic opportunities for watermen and crab processors.

DNR is currently working with watermen and industry leaders to determine how best to use the funds to employ watermen at competitive rates to engage in restoration work; provide economic diversification opportunities into other fisheries or aquaculture ventures; and to help our processing plants to stay open and keep local people employed.

"These efforts demonstrate that by working together as One Maryland - with our state and federal lawmakers, our scientists and our stakeholders - we can continue to make a difference on issues critical to health of our citizens, our economy and our environment," added Governor O'Malley.

A variety of factors ¯ including over-fishing, poor water quality, loss of habitat such as submerged aquatic vegetation and oyster reefs, changing climatic conditions and ecosystem shifts ¯ have contributed to the decline of the Chesapeake Bay's blue crab population. Recent successes of the O'Malley Administration to restore the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem include strengthening the Critical Area Law to protect Maryland's most sensitive and significant shoreline habitats; securing an additional $25 million annually for Bay restoration efforts through the Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund; and implementing BayStat, an tool through which state agencies are tracking progress and more effectively targeting restoration activities.

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The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 449,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries, and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic, and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.DNR.Maryland.gov.

Media Contact:
Olivia Campbell (410) 260-8016, (410) 507-7525 cell or ocampbell@dnr.state.md.us
 


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