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Maryland starts first-time male crab catch limits on July 1

Commercial and recreational catch restrictions
Crab population survey
Posted at 9:16 AM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 10:45:04-04

BALTIMORE — The Maryland blue crab population is so low that catch limits are coming this summer for anyone who goes crabbing.

For the first time, Maryland will have catch limits for male crabs. These limits are usually restricted to females to protect the harvest.

The Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced this week that commercial watermen will be limited to no more than 15 bushels a day in August and September.

While there are no commercial catch limits for male crabs between July 1 through July 31, or between October 1 through November 30.

The end of the season will be cut short as there will be no male hard crab harvest allowed from December 1 through December 15.

These changes also come as a blow to recreational crabbers, right at the start of the July 4th holiday weekend

Starting Friday July 1 through November 30, recreational crabbers on an unlicensed boat with 1 unlicensed individual, will be limited to two dozen male crabs. An unlicensed boat with two or more unlicensed individuals will be limited to catching 4 dozen male crabs, while an unlicensed boat with one or more licensees and any number of unlicensed individuals will be limited to one bushel of male crabs.

Last month, a survey showed the blue crab population in the Chesapeake Bay at its lowest level since 1990.

RELATED: Chesapeake Bay sees lowest blue crab population since 1990

Howes Crabs and Seafood in Shady Side, Anne Arundel County posted a Facebook message stating “being a small business owner was already challenging, especially this year with a record low start to the season. We will keep you posted on how this impacts our business and ultimately you as the customer.”

Some crabbers took their frustration to Twitter, with one posting their complaint and asking the question of “will we be getting refunded for the licensed boat? Since you are taking away its only benefit? And then you implement these changes after you already collected everyone’s money.”

The DNR says this change does not affect recreational crabbing from shore in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. This change also doesn't affect recreational crabbing from shore or on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean, its coastal bays or tributaries.

Besides facing a blue crab shortage, the industry also has been challenged with a worker shortage. New crab catch limits might negate the need for temporary workers.

Governor Larry Hogan had been pleading with the federal government for months to increase the number of issued H-2B temporary worker visas.

MORE: Maryland approved for more Temporary Work Visas to help struggling seafood industry

In March, the Department of Homeland Security signed off on an additional 35,000 temporary worker visas to be given out nationwide.

Some of those were to Maryland to help the state's crab and seafood industry which is short staffed.

Typically, between 370 and 550 H-2B seasonal workers are needed every year in each of Maryland’s licensed crab picking houses.