- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2001

ANNAPOLIS An Eastern Shore, Md. watermen's group will drop a lawsuit it filed in July to try to overturn state regulations that set a maximum eight-hour workday for Maryland crabbers.
Jay Carman, a crabber from Crisfield, said yesterday watermen fear it would be a waste of money to pursue the court suit.
"We tried every way in the world to get a fair trial. We don't think we can get a fair trial," he said.
He said watermen will use their money for other purposes, including a public relations campaign to tell Marylanders that there are plenty of crabs in the Chesapeake Bay and no need to put limits on crabbers.
"By no means are we going to quit. All we are doing is backing off and regrouping right now," Mr. Carman said.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposed the shorter workday and other restrictions, including an early end to the season on Oct. 31, as part of the effort to reduce the crab catch by 15 percent over the next three years.
Maryland and Virginia officials said the reduction is needed in both states to halt what they say is a serious decline in the blue-crab population in the Chesapeake Bay.
Mr. Carman said the Bay "is booming and teeming with crabs."
But Gov. Parris N. Glendening said scientific evidence proves limits are necessary to protect the future of the Bay's most valuable resource. The Democratic governor said many watermen, who are worried about the future of the blue crab, support conservation efforts.
The average annual crab harvest in Maryland has dropped from 58 million pounds in 1993 to just 22 million pounds last year, DNR officials have said. Through August of this year, watermen had pulled in about 12.3 million pounds, just 20,000 pounds more than at the same point last year.
Michelle Byrnie, Mr. Glendening's press secretary, said the governor is convinced that "a single bad season, a big hurricane or continued overfishing would drive the population into complete collapse."
"We were successful in bringing back the rockfish," Mrs. Byrnie said. "We must take aggressive action right now to ensure that future generations of Marylanders will continue to enjoy traditional crab feasts."
Anthony Gorski, the Annapolis lawyer who represented the watermen, said the group decided to drop the lawsuit because of the cost of continuing it and questions about whether it could be successful.
"Essentially, I think the decision is there are better things they can do with their funds right now to help the watermen," he said.
DNR regulations that took effect July 23 limited the workday to eight hours and set restrictions on the type of gear that can be used. The department also will end the season Oct. 31.
Mr. Carman said the decision to close off crabbing early is going to put many waterman out of work on Nov. 1 because it does not appear there will be enough oysters for them to switch over to their usual winter work.
"The watermen are not going to have anything to do," he said. "I don't know how they are going to support their families and make their payments."
This year's restrictions were aimed at reducing the crab catch by 5 percent. Natural resources officials will propose more restrictions for an additional 5 percent reduction next year, with a final step due in 2003.
"The regulations they are talking about putting on next spring are going to put a lot of people out of business. There is no way we can survive," Mr. Carman said.

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