They Keep Killing Mr. Hooper

The Baltimore Sun's Rona Kobell (full disclosure: she's my wife) describes the impact that unexpected new crabbing regulations will have on Hoopers Island and other Chesapeake communities:

Last week, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced it will end the season for female crabs Oct. 23, about seven weeks early. That will slash income for crabbers here at the most lucrative time - when the female crabs are migrating along the coast of the Lower Eastern Shore to Virginia, where they spawn. The state also is imposing limits on how many bushels of females watermen can take in September and October, further cutting their income.

"The main stream of our income is this crab, and without it, we are just destroyed," said Thomas "Bubby" Powley, a crabber who also owns a crab-picking house. "There is just no way we can live with the regulations that they are suggesting."

Whole thing here.

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  • ||

    Um...tragedy of the commons and all that. If Dawson and his scientist chums are right, then too bad for the crabbers. They're victims of their own effectiveness.

    Of course, maybe the DNR should have considered a quota system rather than an outright ban, but one would have to understand the spawning patterns to know which would be more effective.

  • ||

    That will slash income for crabbers here at the most lucrative time - when the female crabs are migrating along the coast of the Lower Eastern Shore to Virginia, where they spawn.

    I served six years in the military, Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve?

  • ||

    """How many years did Cheney serve?"""

    About three or four years less than Rumsfeld.

  • ||

    The Michigan DNR changes the number of hunting permits depending on the health of the deer population. It's called wildlife management. It's not a perfect science but it's far superior to the "take whatever you want" system. As much as I like to piss on just about every government dictate, I'm just going to say, "Too damn bad, crabbers, I feel for you."

  • Rona Kobell||

    Thanks. If any of your readers want to see the video of the Hoopers story, please visit our blog:
    http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bay_environment/blog/

    I linked to it there.

  • ||

    Maybe if they hadn't taken so many damn crabs and females over the years they wouldn't be in this situation right now.

    Last time I heard our La. crabs were selling for $60 a dozen around that area. We got 8 dozen crabs yesterday for $100, nice big full ones too :)

    They have raped and overfished the Chesapeake waters for years, keeping females when they should be turned back. Seems they are trying to reverse things now but it will be awhile.

    The crabbers can bitch and moan all they want but left unchecked they would be out of jobs soon anyway due to their own actions.

  • Highway||

    Yeah, keep yanking crabs out of the Bay as the numbers go down, boosting the pots you throw in to make up the numbers, and you end up where we are now, on the brink of a fishery disaster.

    These clowns will ALL be out of business soon if they keep it up. Just like they've destroyed just about every other fishery resource in the Bay.

    The stupid thing is that people wouldn't react correctly. If you're losing money on crabbing, don't do it. Then the prices will climb, because people DO want their crabs. When you make a profit again, go do it.

    And if it shuts down crabbing enough that the fishery makes a great recovery, maybe we're all better off. Maybe they can help out Oysters, next (I don't like eating them, but they do clean the water).

  • ||

    The state also is imposing limits on how many bushels of females watermen can take

    Cuing "bushels of females" jokes in 3 ... 2 ... 1

  • ||

    Probably some jokes about "watermen" incoming, as well.

  • ||

    Cuing "bushels of females" jokes in 3 ... 2 ... 1

    Are they black eyed and Virgins?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Can crabs be farmed?

  • Arthur O\'Podd||

    "There is just no way we can live with the regulations that they are suggesting."


    But the crabs will, dammit, and that's what matters.

  • ||

    Can crabs be farmed?

    Based on a one-night stand that, uh, my friend had (yeah, that's the ticket), I would say yes.

  • ecoweenie||

    JsubD,

    terrestrial vs. aquatic resource managment strategies are very different. for one, determining "health" of a deer population in a given area is far easier than doing the same for crabs or fish. ditto estimating number of individuals, annual percentage growth/loss in population, and effectiveness of harvesting techniques. given all the uncertainties, it's just not as simple as "What works for Bambi..."

  • ||

    I don't know about farming, but a hatchery would be great. They ought to be able to raise millions of the little buggers.

  • ||

    Note to Chesapeake crabber: SUCK IT UP PRINCESS.

  • ||

    terrestrial vs. aquatic resource managment strategies are very different. for one, determining "health" of a deer population in a given area is far easier than doing the same for crabs or fish. ditto estimating number of individuals, annual percentage growth/loss in population, and effectiveness of harvesting techniques. given all the uncertainties, it's just not as simple as "What works for Bambi..."

    Thank you for the irrelevant dissertation. Amazingly enough, my point

    It's not a perfect science but it's far superior to the "take whatever you want" system.

    somehow remains 100% correct.

  • ||

    >the impact that unexpected new crabbing regulations

    Unexpected? The Chesapeake has been officially declared as a failed ecosystem. Growing up we always threw back all the females. Now, there is almost no crabs to throw back.

  • ||

    My favorite quote:
    "I didn't want my son to get into this business because I knew it was a dying business," Powley said. "But no way did I think that it would be the state that would destroy it."

    He knows that the crabs are dying out, and all he wants is all he can get before they do.

    I feel for the way of life, I really do. I'm from the midwest and my grandfather raised 5 boys on a 40 acre farm. A generation later, you could hang onto the farm if you watched your money, and had outside work. Today, 40 acres is a hobby farm. If you're lucky, you might make enough to pay the taxes.

  • ||

    Hey, all these quotes...On H&R...Noting that without this sensible government regulation these guys would have fished themselves into unemployment and maybe harmed a species existence...That this government regulation might actually help these guys from the market pressures that would push them to fish these crabs until they disappeared (ok, ok, if we worked some private property rights into this then...)

    Is vodka in my lemonade? Is that www.reason.com/blog? Is this D.T.s? But I swear I've cut back recently...

  • ||

    Look at this quote:

    That will slash income for crabbers here at the most lucrative time - when the female crabs are migrating along the coast of the Lower Eastern Shore to Virginia, where they spawn

    They're zeroing in on the migratory paths the females take to SPAWN during spawning season!!!

    No one could have foreseen yadda yadda yadda.

  • SIV||

    The crab population has plummeted, a drop scientists attribute both to overfishing and the bay's poor health.

    Which is more of a factor? Overfishing or poor health of the bay?

    I know the conditions that lower water quality really juice the tax base.

  • ||

    "Which is more of a factor? Overfishing or poor health of the bay?"
    Keeping both within reason would take government regulation chum...Government regulation RULES!

  • ||

    Like the market wouldn't take care of this problem. When they raise their boxes and only 10% of what use to come up is in that box, the price goes up. Demand lowers (yes, DEMAND KURVE!!!1!) and the crab population replenishes itself after a few crab fishermen go out of business. That said, Maryland's action will probably fix the situation faster, so I can't get all up in arms over this.

  • SIV||

    Like the government regulations that subsidized fishing boats and encouraged people to engage in commercial fishing that crashed the fishery off New England?

    Overfishing is also checked by a lack of an economically viable fishery.

    Like the Government subsidized flood insurance that encourages building big near the water leading to polluting run off?

  • ||

    Like the market wouldn't take care of this problem. When they raise their boxes and only 10% of what use to come up is in that box, the price goes up. Demand lowers (yes, DEMAND KURVE!!!1!) and the crab population replenishes itself after a few crab fishermen go out of business. That said, Maryland's action will probably fix the situation faster, so I can't get all up in arms over this.

    I'm still waiting for the Carolina Parakeet and Passenger Pigeon markets to rebound. Think it'll happen any time soon?

  • ||

    Y'all can now explain the government regulations that caused the extinction of the birds I just mentioned. Don't everybody speak up at once.

  • ||

    Tragedy of the Commons?

    Not likely. If these waters, or the crabbing rights within them, were privately owned, they would in all probably have taken action even sooner than the state did, and "destroyed" the island way of life even sooner.

    Sometimes you just have to let the buggy whip shop close, ya' know. Even if it means that cultures change. Even if you feel for those whose lives are being changed.

  • ||

    My favorite line...

    Watermen here disagree. Several say they had their best season in years during 2007, even though the harvest baywide was the smallest in decades...

    I've listened to this idiotic lunacy coming out of the mouths of *ahem* "Watermen" for years.

    These loonies will fish anything to extinction and until they're broke just so they don't have to go do something else besides fish...lying to themselves the whole time about government regulation that's largely trying to keep them from screwing themselves right out of business.

    No one complains or whines more than someone who owns a fishing boat.

  • SIV||

    I do find it amusing that anyone thinks Blue Crabs could be fished to extinction.

    Still curious about that low water quality in Chesapeake Bay. Not familiar with that particular area but I expect those causing the "poor health of the Bay" produce a lot more tax revenues and have a much stronger lobby than a few crabbers.
    The crabs seem to be doing fine in Pamlico and Albemarle to the south

  • ||

    I do find it amusing that anyone thinks Blue Crabs could be fished to extinction.

    The passenger pigeon was considered an inexhaustable resource as well. Putting that aside, would it be OK with you if they were just locally (Chesapeake Bay) eradicated?

  • ||

    Fishermen seem to suffer from a powerfully selective memory that causes to significally overestimate the number of fish (or crabs). They forget how much better the catches were in the past, and forget the times they couldn't catch anything.

    Several say they had their best season in years during 2007

    Its often a very bad sign when fishermen start making statements like this...

    The river herring are sent to Japan to lure seals.

    I don't even want to know what this is about.

  • ||

    "Like the market wouldn't take care of this problem."

    The market exacerbates the problem. As long as nobody owns the fisheries, the market cannot correct the dwindling supply. Demand for such an item won't be reduced until the fisheries are irretrievably lost. I think private ownership of certain fisheries is the correct libertarian angle. Without it, the "market" argument doesn't work. A private fishery would never let its stocks get to a critical level.

  • SIV||


    The river herring are sent to Japan to lure seals.

    I don't even want to know what this is about.


    I really, really do. It sounds like either fun or tasty, maybe both, and with some cool clothes at the end.

    I haven't looked into the specifics of the Chesapeake Bay but impermeable surface runoff, failed sewage treatment facilities, and landscaping ag chemicals from Gov flood insurance subsidized development are murder on estuarine and inshore fisheries. Look at the statistics on catches of days past vs today.
    That difference isn't just from overfishing.

  • Kolohe||

    "Y'all can now explain the government regulations that caused the extinction of the birds I just mentioned. Don't everybody speak up at once."

    A half assed and late response: For the latter, WW1?

  • ||

    Overfishing is also checked by a lack of an economically viable fishery.

    Wow.

    Speaking as someone who comes from a state with a big commercial fishing industry...wow.

    No, SIV. Not even close. As fisheries decline to the point of significantly reduced catch, the fishermen work even harder to scoop up every last fish, in order to bring in a large enough catch. Then, they keep trying and trying (and coming up short) in order to bring in something, so they can pay the bills.

    Fish aren't widgets. When the supply is gone, you can't just crank out new ones to meet next month's quota.

  • lee brenn||


    The market exacerbates the problem. As long as nobody owns the fisheries, the market cannot correct the dwindling supply. Demand for such an item won't be reduced until the fisheries are irretrievably lost. I think private ownership of certain fisheries is the correct libertarian angle. Without it, the "market" argument doesn't work. A private fishery would never let its stocks get to a critical level.


    Thank you, Lamar. :D

  • DannyK||

    This is a growing problem. Here on the West Coast, there isn't even going to be a Chinook salmon fishing season -- too few of the little guys are making it back to spawn as it is.

    Fortunately, sea level rise will ensure excellent new crab habitat in the flooded buildings around the bay.

  • ||

    "Torchwood" / "Sesame Street" dual reference? Am I right?

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