How to destroy your own livelihood in 1 easy step

Say goodbye to those delicious Old Bay spiced crabs – Chesapeake blue crabs are at historic lows. They are only at a third of their 1993 population. Mind you, this is not the usual comparison to pre-industrialized fishing populations, say from the 1950s – crabs have declined two-thirds in only 14 years.

And why is this? Certainly the incredible pollution of the Chesapeake is a factor. The sewage of much of the mid-Atlantic cities, chicken and hog farms, and the chemical lawns of countless subdivisions all run off into the Bay, causing oxygen depletion and massive dead zones. But you need to read deep into this Washington Post article to get to another shocking reason: the watermen are targeting spawning females.

Now, fishing is a hard life. I know they’ve got boat loans and house loans and families and everything. But catching females on their way to spawn? That is not only madness, it’s a dishonorable refusal to take care of their own livelihood. I don’t think they should get any governmental help or bailouts until they implement some kind of sane limits (similar to the notching of female lobsters in Maine). Until they can play nicely with the Bay, let them go bankrupt.

Via blogfish


4 Responses to How to destroy your own livelihood in 1 easy step

  1. jebyrnes says:

    As a Baltimorean who grew up on blue crab (seriously, Dungeness? It’s like eating paper in comparison) this article made me cry. Particularly knowing how well lobsters have been managed by letting the spawners go.

  2. anna says:

    you mean that’s not regulated against already??

    and, of course, ditto what jarrett says.

  3. Hao says:

    As a fellow Marylander, I remember when we had fresh crab every summer, but that was right around the time that they experienced the recent decline, according to the article.

    What I don’t get is why the fishing community expects that smaller harvests are going to help. Even if you believe in some misguided density-dependent model, in order to restore populations, you would have to decrease harvesting faster than the rate at which the population is decreasing. If the watermen are doing everything they can to maintain income, that suggests that the harvesting pressure is going the other way as greater effort is being applied: increased harvesting rate + decreased population => crash.

  4. Hao – yep, that is the very definition of the classic crash. I imagine there’s a lot of literature out there on this topic, but I think crashes are caused by an inability to act collectively, overinvestment in fishery infrastructure, and good old fashioned denial.

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