Browsing articles in "Crabs"

A Crabber’s Life: Days Are Consumed by the Water

By Alex Moe  //  Crabs, Fishing Industry  //  86 Comments

Capt. Bob Evans (left) works alongside Anthony Jones pulling up crab pots near Shady Side, Md. (News21 photo by Allison Frick)

SHADY SIDE, Md. – Capt. Bob Evans has the same routine six days a week, each and every week, during the warm months. He sets out on his 40-foot boat around 6:30 a.m. and, a few minutes after leaving the dock, is already pulling up his underwater lines.

Six hours later, after checking about 400 pots, he returns to the dock and makes the short drive to his store, where he unloads the bushels from his truck.

“I was raised on the water,” recalls Evans, 57. “I just couldn’t stay away from it. I started out as a kid just fishing and crabbing, and I absolutely loved it.”

For the past 40 years, he has been crabbing for a living. “I don’t know how to do anything else,” he says.

His crab pots are scattered in the bay and in nearby rivers in Shady Side. “Captain Bob,” as he likes to be called, has two men who work with him on his boat, while his two daughters run his seafood store in Churchton, Md.

“It’s a family business, and we like it. We’re proud of it,” he says.

Watermen must make enough in the summer season to last them for the year. “We don’t get a pay check every week,” Evans says.

“When you do good, you have to save your money for the tough times.”

This season has been good so far for Evans’ business. He caught more than $1,600 worth of crabs just on that day.

But he says that is not always the case.

“You’ll never get rich doing this,” Evans says. “But it’s a good honest living –and we’re proud of what we do.”

–by Alex Moe


With Gulf Oil Spill, More Demand for Chesapeake Seafood?

By Brian Hooks  //  Crabs, Fishing Industry, Pollution, conservation, oysters  //  18 Comments

The leaking oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may increase demand for seafood from the Chesapeake Bay. Photo - Wikimedia Commons

Crabs and oysters are no longer endangered just in the Chesapeake Bay –the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may harm the southern seafood industry, and the animals themselves. The Associated Press released a story May 4, wondering how the spill –and the federal government’s lockdown on Louisiana fisheries– may affect seafood prices worldwide.

According to the story, the state of Maryland receives about 2,000 bushels a day from Louisiana crabbers, and there is no end in sight for the oil spill. This void may pay dividends for local watermen, since the most bountiful Chesapeake blue crab season in 13 years began last month.

Jason Ruth, a regular Louisiana seafood buyer for a company in Grasonville, told the Associated Press, “Anytime you take that amount of resource out of play, it’s got to be affecting the prices some. To what extent, that’s yet to be seen.”

According to a May 8 report by Reuters, the oil spill is also spreading at the peak time for oyster reproduction in the gulf. To put this in perspective, the gulf provides almost 70 percent of the country’s oysters, with a value of $131.6 million in 2008.

If seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is banned long-term for health reasons, then one of Chesapeake watermen’s biggest competitors will be out of the running for a while.


Blue Crab Comeback: Bay Restoration or Good Management?

The Chesapeake Bay blue crab population is enjoying a revival, with an increase of about 60 percent since last year and its highest rate since 1997.  This has been welcome news for the watermen, crab-lovers, environmentalists and politicians.

But at least one expert cautioned that the comeback should not be seen as a sign that the bay’s water quality is being restored; he insists that it is the result of good fisheries management.

“Getting blue crabs numbers up has nothing to do with saving the Bay,” James Price, the head of the Chesapeake Bay Ecological Foundation, told News21. “It has to do with blue crab management.” Price believes the Bay will never be brought back to its glory days.

Correct management of other crucial fisheries, such as the depleted oyster population, should have been similarly introduced years ago, Price said.

“The Chesapeake Bay Foundation should have argued for moratorium on oysters years ago – but they never have,” stated Price. Now, he believes, it may be too late to save the oysters, as the delicate habitats they depend on for their survival have been destroyed.


Crab Population Up, Oysters Remain Scarce in Chesapeake Bay

By Megan Pratz  //  Crabs, Fishing Industry, Regulation, oysters  //  25 Comments

Photo courtesy of UMCES

The blue crab population in the the Chesapeake Bay is up 60%, but the oyster population remains drastically low, despite concentrated efforts to restore it.

Overall, Maryland state and federal government funds totaling $40 million have gone to protect and grow the oyster population.

The state’s plan? More regulations to protect more areas of the bay to save more oysters. And the watermen are not happy about it.

Jackie Bowen, a Calvert County waterman, opposes oyster sanctuaries. He said in a public forum earlier this year, “We try to make a living out there. We don’t want to be out of business.”

Despite concerns like Bowen’s, the Department of Natural Resources hopes to submit a proposal for new sanctuaries soon.

And even though these sanctuaries would protect oyster beds, DNR knows this is serious business for watermen.

“We want to be sure we get it right, as right as we can,” DNR assistant director of fisheries Mike Naylor told the Washington Post. “These sanctuaries are permanent.”


Underwater Grasses Up Overall in the Chesapeake Bay

By Alex Moe  //  Bay Education, Crabs, Fishing Industry  //  29 Comments

Bay grasses in the Chesapeake Bay were up twelve percent in 2009–the most grass found in the bay since 2002, according to scientists at the Chesapeake Bay Program. The results of the annual aerial grass survey are giving scientists hope that the health of the bay is improving.

“Because bay grasses are sensitive to even small changes in water pollution, they serve as a key indicator of Chesapeake Bay health,” Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin said. “Healthy bay grass beds protect shorelines from erosion, produce oxygen and filter polluted water,” Griffin continued.

The underwater grasses are essential for fish and blue crab habitats. And with the crab population up 60 percent in the Bay this year, more grass is needed for the additional creatures.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said the grass increase is a good sign for the state’s efforts. “This expansion is an encouraging sign that our pollution control efforts are working,” he said, “A trend that we hope to sustain with accelerated efforts to restore the Bay.”

Although overall the bay grass population is up, there were some areas of the bay that saw a decrease. Anne Arundel County encountered a huge disappointment in the amount of grass seen in its rivers. “There were dramatic declines in grass beds in the Magothy and Severn rivers, and no grass beds were documented at all in the South, West and Rhode rivers,” according to The Capital. Scientists are still working to determine why these rivers did not see an increase in bay grass.


Who Benefits from the Crab Revival?

By Zettler Clay  //  Crabs, Fishing Industry, Regulation  //  28 Comments

Thanks to evidence that Maryland’s blue crab population has staged a rebound, it’s been a good month for Gov. Martin O’Malley and area crab lovers. The governor may have received a campaign boost, while crab lovers may soon be able to to go to their favorite seafood restaurants and have a better chance of  eating local crabs.

Well for crab lovers, not exactly. Even though Maryland announced the crab population appears to be up sharply this season, the harvest restrictions aren’t likely to be lifted anytime soon. First, Maryland officials want to see how blue crab’s numbers will continue to fare. Even though winter dredging of female crabs  has significantly decreased over the past two years, the harvest actually increased in 2009.

As for O’Malley, news of a crab revival is particularly welcome in a campaign year, coming as it does two years after his administration pushed for crab harvest restrictions that were  unpopular with watermen. Though restricting the crab harvest might seem like a smart move now, it wasn’t always perceived that way. This measure was controversial when passed in 2008. Now, O’Malley may have more credibility when he tells bay preservationists he has their best interest at heart.

Watermen, however, might not be feeling so receptive to O’Malley’s charms. They sacrificed the most for this crab growth. “Our watermen are due gratitude for their endurance during this stock rebuilding, and for their conservation efforts,” Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech said.

But watermen have a glimmer of hope for change, as DNR officials said they may consider “modest management modifications” this year.

About Us

Bay on the Brink is a multimedia reporting project examining the fate of the Chesapeake Bay. It is produced by fellows at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism as part of News21, a consortium of journalism schools. This is the fellows' blog. The full project site is here:
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