The Washington Times - August 17, 2009, 12:35PM

The much ballyhooed license buy-back program for Marylanders who hold – but do not use – what is known as a Commercial Limited Crab Catcher (LCC) License kind of fizzled.

The Department of Natural Resources says it is revising its original plan of letting owners of latent licenses demand a certain sum for the permits, with the DNR then making a counter offer. Last month, the DNR sent all 3,676 latent and active LCC license holders a letter offering to buy back licenses through a process called a reverse auction. The reverse auction included the opportunity to submit a bid to the Department for the amount of money they would be willing to relinquish their license.

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The DNR hoped that the program that ended July 31 would permanently retire 2,000 of the LLC licenses. Instead, only 494 crabbers submitted bids by the deadline.

Now, the DNR is revising and extending its program offer in an effort to reduce the amount of inactive licenses because they could suddenly be used and pose a “long-term biological and economic threat to the crab population,” said the DNR.

All the original bids from LCC license holders will be formally declined and the DNR will offer a fixed price of $2,260 to those who wish to sell their license. (The DNR used the 494 bids it received to determine what it calls a fixed, fair value for an LCC license.)

“By establishing a fixed sales price for an LCC license we can now eliminate uncertainty for the license holder,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin. “In addition, we plan to extend this offer to LCC license holders until the funding for this project is exhausted. We feel that this course of action will ultimately get us closer to achieving our goal.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), through Federal Blue Crab Disaster Funds, is providing funding for the LCC Buy-Back Program. The funding was secured by Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sen. Barbara Mikulski and the Maryland Congressional Delegation in 2008.