RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Watermen who crowded a legislative hearing persuaded members to kill a bill that would have allowed regulators to ban the winter dredge of crabs in the Chesapeake Bay in three-year installments.Count me as one who criticizes the dredging of sponge (egg) bearing female crabs out of the sediment before they can release their eggs.
The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee dispatched a bill Monday that breezed through the House.
The Virginia Marina Resources Commission has acted in each of the past three years to ban the winter dredge, part of an overall strategy to restore the bay's blue crabs. The bill would have allowed the commission to ban the winter dredge for three years, subject to annual review. The dredging of the lower Chesapeake Bay during the winter months has been criticized by some because it scoops up hibernating pregnant females.
My reading of this law is that it would have allowed the VMRC to ban dredging dredging three years at a time, rather than the current year at a time approach. However, it also suggests to me that the watermen have enough influence in the legislature that they might try to get the ban repealed in general. Dredging winter crabs is a long traditional harvest method in Virginia, but it is not allowed in Maryland. (It's largely an irrelevant distinction because the vast majority of the sooks (as female crabs are called) migrate to lower bay waters to hibernate.