- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Talk about being unhappy with the way the Maryland Department of Natural Resources "manages" the state's yellow perch and blue crabs.
The Coastal Conservation Association's Southern Maryland chapter says that after the DNR's most recent Sport Fish Advisory Commission meeting it became apparent that there will be no management plan in 2002 for the state's yellow perch despite earlier promises that the much-maligned species would receive more attention. Said one of the chapter members: "The DNR has milked this project to death and still doesn't have it right."
CCA/Southern Maryland member Ken Hastings is upset with the way the state conducts business concerning perch and the Chesapeake Bay's blue crabs. Hastings, incidentally, has lots of company when it comes to the top seafood cash crop in the bay and how Maryland tries to juggle the availability of summertime crabs for the commercial sector by increasingly restricting recreational crabbing.
"The DNR didn't have a clue how many crabs the recreationals caught when they predicted that the [state-imposed] recreational reduction had been met in one season," Hastings says. "I think [Maryland's Fisheries Service director] Eric Schwaab's description of the current data with some survey information is a SWAG, which stands for a Scientific Wild A** Guess. You get those when scientists makes a wild a** guess, but they rarely admit to it."
Hastings also says that despite last year's drastic cuts in bushel limits for recreational crabbers, the prospects for any relief from those regulations to counter further hits to be levied by the DNR are poor.
Hastings is correct when he says that the DNR's statement that recreational crabbers took 13 percent of the total bay crab harvest is nothing but a wild guess. As an occasional recreational trotliner, I readily pass along that I have never been checked by marine patrols. Neither have any of my neighbors all of whom run recreational trotlines or dozens of friends and acquaintances who catch crabs by handlining chicken neck baits. None of themcan recall being asked how many crabs they catch during a season. So how can the state say a mandated recreational (or for that matter, commercial) crab reduction effort has been met?
"Before you take that 13 percent number anywhere," Hastings says, "keep in mind that they don't know how many crabs anyone caught last year and can't possibly have any faith in the 13 percent or any other number. The lack of data isn't completely DNR's fault the legislature didn't pass the broad recreational licensing bill so they would know at least how many people were crabbing, and no one believes the commercial reports or that all the commercials are filing reports. If you don't know how many are crabbing, how in the world can you estimate how many crabs they caught?"
Fish consumption advisory The Maryland Department of the Environment issued several new advisories concerning the consumption of 13 species of fish recreationally caught in 14 tidal waters throughout the state. These new consumption advisories supersede those previously issued by the MDE in 1987 and 1999. (Back then they applied to channel catfish, eel, carp and black crappies caught in the Potomac, Back and Patapsco rivers and Lake Roland.)
The new fish consumption advisories are geared to protect people who regularly consume their catch from Maryland tidal waters, where unhealthy levels of fish-borne contaminants are found. Children and women who are or may become pregnant are most susceptible to health risks associated with fish-borne contaminants and should take special note of these advisories. Recent changes in the recommended daily consumption estimates used by the Environmental Protection Agency, combined with new sampling data and improved analytical techniques, have resulted in new advisories.
Remember, you are not prohibited from catching or consuming any fish species or crabs either recreationally or commercially, and the warning does not intend to discourage the taking or eating of fish or game but should be used as a guide to minimize exposure to contaminants. These advisories are not due to increased contamination in the fish.
Maryland has six categories of consumption advisories ranging from "no consumption" to up to eight meals a month to no restriction at all. A meal is considered to be eight ounces of fish for the average 150-pound person with slightly smaller meal sizes for women and children. People who eat fish and shellfish can decrease exposure to fat-associated contaminants by removing the skin and trimming fat during preparation and cooking by broiling, baking or grilling to allow oils to separate from the edible flesh. People who consume crabs should refrain from eating the "mustard," or tomalley.
To check out the detailed list, go to www.mde.state.md.us/fishadvisory/index.


Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]


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