- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Flush with $15 million in federal blue crab disaster funds, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources will offer to buy back 3,676 commercial limited crab catcher (LCC) licenses. The DNR has mailed letters to all LCC license holders informing them of this voluntary program, which seeks to reduce latent effort in Maryland’s commercial blue crab fishery. Latent effort simply means the license is not being used.

In the current program to sustain the state’s rich blue crab fishery, the Chesapeake Bay-wide annual crab harvest will be limited to the removal of no more than 46 percent of the total population. Last year, Maryland, Virginia and the separate Potomac River Fisheries Commission tried to reduce the overall crab harvest by 34 percent. The three jurisdictions claim this was accomplished, citing a substantial increase in the adult crab population this year.

Maryland, meanwhile, says inactive crab licenses account for about one-third of all the LCC license holders, which makes it tough to adopt working management strategies that might accomplish the reduced crab harvest target.

The commercial limited license buyback program will involve a reverse auction that requires individuals to submit bids to the department for the amount of money they believe their license is worth. If an LCC license holder sells his license and the DNR accepts the bid, the license will be permanently retired. The deadline for submitting bids to the DNR is July 31. Individuals will be notified of acceptance or rejection of their bid by Aug. 15, and accepted bidders will receive their payments in early September.

If inactive license holders do not submit a bid or if the DNR does not accept the auction bid, the license will be subject to new regulations that will be proposed this autumn. New regulations will tell inactive LCC license owners to accept either a limited, male-only harvest, with the licensing becoming nontransferable, or a temporary freeze of the license until the crab population maintains a target abundance. (An inactive license holder is defined as an individual who has not reported any crab harvest between April 1, 2004, and Dec. 15, 2008.)

“Our counterparts in Virginia are also pursuing a license buyback program this summer using federal blue crab disaster funds, and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission is discussing this as well,” Maryland Fisheries director Tom O’Connell said.

Worries about the Chesapeake - As if we don’t have enough worries these days, try checking out the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s report, “Bad Water 2009: The Impact on Human Health in the Chesapeake Bay Region.” Fair warning: It isn’t good news.

After recent sour reports of the impact that pollution and overharvesting have on the Bay’s crab population, the CBF decided to look into the impact of water pollution on human health. The CBF says we’ll continue to swim in the Bay and consume seafood that came from it, but all of us should be truly concerned about the health of this magnificent body of water.

“All too often, harmful bacteria like vibrio, cyanobacteria, or cryptosporidium pose potential human health threats. In addition, mercury contamination of seafood is of real concern as are nitrates in ground water,” it warned.

You can read the full report by going to cbf.org.

Learn how to climb rocks - The North Face outdoor product company has partnered with USA Climbing, the governing body of U.S. competition climbing, to showcase this growing activity.

North Face and USA Climbing will offer free climbing clinics Saturday at all 27 North Face retail stores across the country, including the McLean location at Tyson’s Corner Center. In addition, the D.C. store will have a rock climbing wall outside where customers can learn to climb and test gear. A USA Climbing coach will give a presentation about climbing, fitness, safety tips and proper apparel needed to climb.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/sports.

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