Maryland's proposed crab regulations could have large economic impacts

College Park, MD. - A state of Maryland proposal to restrict possession of sponge crabs and crabs smaller than 5-1/4 inches, thus making them unavailable for processing, would add up to a total loss of nearly $18 million annually, according to economists at the Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program and the University of Maryland College Park. While sponge crabs are not harvested in Maryland, those harvested in Virginia and other states also have traditionally been processed in Maryland.

According to Douglas W. Lipton and Shannon Sullivan, the report authors, the proposed regulations will result in a direct loss to the industry of $13.5 million each year and another $4.4 in economic activity. The steep decline in revenues would translate into the loss of an estimated 459 jobs in the processing industry itself, and another 80 jobs that would be lost due to reduced spending by processors.

The proposed regulations are designed to help the state meet a bi-state goal of reducing blue crab fishing mortality rate by 15 percent. "This is an agreed-upon goal that we need to meet," says Lipton, "to ensure sustainable blue crab populations in the Chesapeake. "However," he adds, "we need to find the most efficient ways of achieving the 15 percent reduction. Our analysis suggests," Lipton says, "that the possession law for sponge crabs and male crabs less than 5-1/4 inches is an extremely high-cost way of enforcing a harvest limit and places an inequitable burden on the processing sector of the blue crab industry."

Dorchester County on Marylands Eastern Shore, with 21 of 30 active plants, would be hardest hit, absorbing more than 75% of the industry''s direct losses. The crab processing industry represents two percent of the county's manufacturing base and 3.3 percent of its labor force.

The economic impact analysis, which was funded by the Maryland Sea Grant Program, is based on a survey of Maryland crab processing plants in Dec

Contact: Ben Sherman
National Sea Grant College Program

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