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Governors Act To Cut The Harvest Of Crabs

US - The governors of Maryland and Virginia have agreed to take immediate steps to reduce by one-third the amount of female blue crabs harvested from the Chesapeake Bay.

The move is an unprecedented joint effort to stop the skid of the bay's iconic species and Maryland officials say they are prepared to offer other work to watermen to make up for lost income.

According to the Baltimore Sun, natural resources officials estimate that there is US$3 million in the capital budget to help the seafood industry. Some of it could be used to hire watermen to build oyster reefs or start aquaculture businesses.

"It's not us trying to get them a welfare check. It's doing things that are in their interest, too," said Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin.

"The crab has more than an economic impact. It truly is a symbol that unites the two states," Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. "When positive steps are taken, this is a very resilient species that could come back very quickly. We need to take the steps."

Crabbing is one of the bay's few surviving commercial fisheries. About a thousand watermen in Maryland earn all or part of their living on the water, state records show. Many more people in the region work for businesses connected to crabbing, such as seafood processors, restaurants and marinas.

Some Maryland watermen have said that cutting the harvest so much would force them out of business. Told yesterday that the state might offer other employment, several showed little enthusiasm for the idea.

View the Baltimore Sun story by clicking here.