Md. To Receive $10 Million Federal Disaster Funds for Watermen Work Projects

WASHINGTON (Nov. 18, 2008)—It was announced today that Maryland will receive $10 million in federal funding to help watermen who have faced economic hardships due to years of declining Chesapeake Bay blue crab stock. The announcement came from the office of Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)

In September the Department of Commerce supported a request made by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley for a disaster declaration for the Chesapeake Bay blue crab. The disaster declaration made Maryland’s watermen eligible for emergency disaster funding, which was subsequently included by the Congress in an emergency funding bill. The $10 million in funding for Maryland allocated by the Department of Commerce today will provide alternative economic opportunities for watermen and the processing industry, while state regulators work with the industry to rebuild stocks and restructure the fishery.

Governor Martin O’Malley applauded and thanked the leadership of Maryland’s Congressional Delegation for securing the $10 million in funding.

"We are grateful to Senators Mikulski and Cardin, Leader Hoyer, Representative Ruppersberger, and our congressional delegation for their diligence and leadership in appropriating these dollars and working with the Department of Commerce for release of this critical funding for Maryland's iconic blue crab fishery," said O'Malley in a prepared statement.

"This federal funding supports our commitment to keep Maryland watermen working and protect the viability of the many local businesses that rely on blue crabs, while giving the species time to rebuild. It is only by working together -– through the collaboration of scientists in the fishing industry, along with federal and state governments – that we can ensure a sustainble future for two of the Chesapeake’s greatest icons, blue crabs and watermen, and this is exactly what we will continue to do," added O'Malley.

The federal funding will be applied to watermen work projects including habitat restoration, fishery monitoring and retraining for industry diversification into aquaculture opportunities, according to the Governor's office. The funding will also be used to restructure the fishery and improve its management to provide longer term predictability and market stability for the regional industry.

More than 100 watermen began oyster bar rehabilitation work in the Severn and Patuxent Rivers and Tangier Sound this week. The State secured $3 million for this first stage of economic mitigation work projects for those impacted by the faltering blue crab population as part of the 2009 capital projects budget.

Earlier this year, the O’Malley-Brown Administration took action, in cooperation with Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine, to rebuild the Chesapeake Bay’s beleaguered blue crab population by reducing the harvest of ecologically valuable female blue crabs by 34 percent in 2008. In September 2008, in response to a request from Governors O’Malley and Kaine, and advocacy by the Congressional Delegation, NOAA‘s National Marine Fisheries Service declared a federal fishery disaster for Chesapeake Bay watermen and women who have suffered economic hardships due to the extremely low and unstable blue crab abundance as well as the downturn in the national economy.

Sources: Office of Gov. O'Malley, Office of Senator Mikulski


Info on Maryland’s efforts to rebuild the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab population:

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