Voluntary Commercial License Buy-Back Program Launched to Aid Blue Crab Conservation

Federal Blue Crab Disaster Funds will be used to purchase commercial Unlimited Tidal Fish and Crab Harvester Licenses

ANNAPOLIS (March 23, 2011) — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is offering to buy and permanently retire Unlimited Tidal Fish (TFL) and Crab Harvester (CB) commercial fishing licenses on a voluntary basis from holders who may or may not be currently active in commercial crabbing or fishing.

“We have all worked hard, sacrificed and invested money to nurse the ailing blue crab population back to health,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin. “By offering to buy unused licenses, we are ensuring the number of watermen is not growing disproportionally to the blue crab population.”

The first phase of the effort to reduce latent crabbing pressure was a voluntary DNR buyback of commercial Limited Crab Catcher (LCC) licenses which ran from July 2009 until March 11, 2011. This program resulted in the purchase and retirement of nearly 700 licenses.

“At the moment, there are about 650 inactive watermen who hold TFL and CB licenses, which presents a significant fisheries management challenge,” says DNR Fisheries Director Tom O’Connell. “It becomes very difficult to manage the crab fishery to our annual target harvest level if even a fraction of these unused licenses choose to re-enter the fishery.”

On March 1, 2011, DNR mailed buyback information packets including bid forms to all TFL and CB license holders who may choose to accept a certain base price or take a chance that there will be funds available at the end of the program to be paid a higher price. The base and optional high prices are based on license types. The offers range from a base price of $4,000 for a 300-pot CB license to a high potential price of $12,000 for a TFL with a 900 crab pot authorization. License holders may also choose to pass on the offer. The Department is not planning any action that would impact individuals who choose not to participate in this program.

DNR will buy all licenses offered at the base price first. If there are funds remaining, DNR will randomly select, in a public drawing, licenses to be purchased at the higher price.

TFL and CB license holders interested in selling their licenses to DNR must return their bid forms to the Department postmarked by Friday April 15, 2011 in order to participate.

Buyback program information, bid forms, and the price structure are posted on the DNR website at www.dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/commercial/.

Interested license holders may also call the crab hotline at 410-260-8286 for more information.

DNR recently ended the Limited Crab Catcher (LCC) commercial license buyback program after retiring nearly 700 LCC licenses in about a year and a half. Funding for both buyback programs came from a Federal Blue Crab Fishery Disaster Grant, which was secured through the efforts of Governor Martin O’Malley and Senator Barbara Mikulski with assistance from the Maryland Congressional Delegation in 2008. The funds were issued by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service.

Source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

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