Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The branding of the Bay

In our article, The seafood industry's dark side, we suggested that the last two generations of watermen, the Watermen's Association, The Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, and local and state politicians all should have pushed for policies that would have "branded" Chesapeake seafood, particularly the Maryland blue crab and Chesapeake oysters. 

The idea of branding is a simple one.  Much like the French have branded their champagnes produced out of the Champagne region of France, we could've branded our Bay seafood to be top of the line delicacies compared to similar seafood harvested elsewhere.  At the height of Maryland's seafood heydays, Maryland blue crabs and Chesapeake oysters were world-renowned as being the best, most flavorful, crabs and oysters around.

Without rehashing the historical background we already gave in The seafood industry's dark side, suffice it to say it took one generation of watermen to nearly completely erase the Chesapeake's reputation for providing the finest seafood. 

A couple of months after writing that article, a young upstart in the House of Delegates, Delegate Eric G. Luedtke (D), submitted HB 913.  The bill aims to protect the integrity of Maryland's proud seafood industry and may help boost our local watermen's livelihood.

In short, all seafood sold in Maryland would be required to be labeled with the species' name and where it was caught.  It also bans the selling of any crab product labeled "blue crab" unless the product is made of Callinectes Sapidus, the species of blue crab native to the Bay, Atlantic, and Gulf States and the crab product must be labeled with the state the crab was harvested in.

For those who strive to support our local watermen, the law goes a long way in helping consumers in making "buy local" decisions.  A diner ordering crab cakes at a restaurant in Ocean City, for example, won't have to wonder if the "Maryland crab cakes" are truly Maryland blue crab caught by Maryland watermen or not.  The law mandates that the restaurant needs to post the origins of the crab meat used in the crab cakes as well as what kind of crab was used.

We'd like to think that Delegate Luedtke happened across our article and was inspired to introduce HB 913, but we doubt it.  We're simply thrilled that someone in a position to effect change has the same thoughts we had and is trying to do exactly what we said should've been done forty years ago - ten years before Delegate Luedtke was even born!

We hope everyone reading this will take fifteen minutes to contact their local representatives and express support for HB 913.

HB 913 (full text in .pdf format)

Contact your representative (easy reference list by county)

The Seafood Industry's Dark Side (A historical perspective of the collapse of Maryland's seafood industry)

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

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