Bill would bring Md. closer to commercial shrimp fishing

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Maryland prides itself on its beloved local seafood, from crabs and oysters to…shrimp? Although there is currently no shrimp fishery to speak of in the Maryland portion of the bay, shellfish are showing up more frequently in the bay area. And some East Coast state lawmakers say it’s time to explore a commercial fishery.

A bill currently being considered by the Maryland Legislature would pave the way for a pilot program by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Sponsored by State Senator Mary Beth Carozza and Delegate Jay Jacobs, respectively, Senate Bill 537 and its cross-filing House Bill 1149, “would clarify the power of the DNR to pass regulations governing any aspect of the shrimp fishery and to establish and implement a pilot program related to the shrimp fishery.

First, a 2021 Senate bill created a shrimp fishery and required commercial harvesting of shrimp to require a permit. But for it to be fully implemented, “the MNR needed to have the power and responsibility to determine the rules and regulations governing shrimp fishing – such as closed areas, seasons, catch and size limits. , types of gear, number of licenses and reporting requirements,” said Senator Carozza bay bulletin. “That’s what the sequel to this session accomplished with SB537.”

As Carozza and Jacobs explain, there are strong arguments for acting now on the pilot program.

First, while east coast shrimp populations were previously restricted to the Carolinas, warming waters mean they are starting to appear farther north, including off the Atlantic coast and in the lower Bay of Chesapeake. There may be sufficient supply for an industry in some areas of Maryland. Second, if deemed viable, such an industry could not only provide a new source of income for fishermen, who Carozza says would need to invest around $10,000 to $15,000 in shrimp fishing gear, but would also increase local and state coffers through tax revenues. . And, finally, commercial harvesting would allow Marylanders to buy local shrimp from the water to the table from boatmen, restaurants and grocers at a time when roughly 90% of all seafood consumed in the States States are imported.

Both bills have received favorable positions within their respective committees, as well as from MNR, trade groups and the boatmen themselves.

The MNR expressed its official support in a letter referring to its consultation with Virginia, where, as bay bulletin reported, a commercial shrimp pilot program was developed in late 2018 and has since been found to be successful. Likewise, Maryland Oystermen’s Association President Jim Mullin and Maryland Watermen’s Association President Robert Brown said SB537 would provide the guidance and regulations required by an emerging industry. And Sonny Gwin, an Ocean City mariner who sells lobsters direct to consumers, said: “Now that we see shrimp along our coast, we would like the DNR to have the power to allow us to catch and sell these shrimp just as we have been doing, right off the boat, for years.

Although he doesn’t see an opportunity for shrimp fishing on the mid-west coast of the bay, longtime Annapolis-area boatman Patrick Mahoney, Jr., who harvests crabs, oysters and fish, also expressed support for the bill.

“Shrimp harvesting is not something I would be interested in because I haven’t seen any shrimp in that area of ​​the bay,” Mahoney said. bay bulletin. “Having said that, I’m all for anything that helps grow the fishing industry and helps people like me make money, so I think it’s definitely something worth looking into. ‘be explored for the people of the South and the coast.’

If SB537 and HB1149 continue to move towards full switchover, the pilot program is expected to begin on July 1, 2022.

-Steve Adams

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