The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has released proposed new restrictions on crab harvests that are designed to help restore the crab fishery to its former size. The move comes after several years of declining harvests and signs that the crab population of the Bay has fallen sharply.
The proposals sharply reduce the allowable catch of female crabs and a complete closure of the fishery for two weeks in October. Recreational crabbers would be totally banned from catching females. The Commonwealth of Virginia is also working up tighter restrictions on crab harvesting.
Watermen who earn their living catching crabs are up in arms. Given the higher costs for fuel and bait, these restrictions will significantly hamper their ability to earn a living and will put many out of business. Of course, the watermen might share some of the blame for overharvesting, but really, we all share the blame for so destroying the quality of the water in the Chesapeake Bay that the entire bay ecosystem is falling apart.
Local newspapers recently carried an article about all of the bay tributaries in Anne Arundel county being highly polluted. According to the same Chesapeake Bay Report Card nearly 88 percent of the Bay and its tributaries had summer oxygen levels too low to support marine life.
So we pollute the Bay, destroy the last of its viable fisheries and then tell those that earn their living from the water that, sorry, you have to stop. Of course, if the watermen were farmers, the story would be much, much different. The Governor would be declaring a disaster and the Federal and state governments would be sending disaster aid, crop support payments and everything else to support them.
And if we were dumping poisons on the farmers' fields, destroying their crops and telling them they need to stop harvesting for a while to let the land 'renew', there would be understandable outrage. There would be lawsuits and jail terms and we'd be made to stop immediately.
But none of us will be made to stop dumping their filth into the Bay; no one will goto jail and there will be no disaster relief for the watermen. Our Governor and some others will make some announcements about making plans to put together a commission to do a study to serve as a basis for discussion of the problem. And then we'll forget about it for a while so we can pay attention to the Orioles or the Nats or talk about American Idol.
And the watermen will struggle to survive and some will fail.
And the Bay will just get worse.
Because that's the way we do things here in the 'Land of Pleasant Living'.