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April 06, 2023

Lawmakers push for state of emergency for Chesapeake Bay fisheries

Credit: The Hill

Maryland lawmakers called for the declaration of a state of emergency to address ecological concerns impacting the seafood industry in the Chesapeake Bay.

Invasive species are undermining the health of the watershed, negatively impacting fisheries and other local businesses, lawmakers said in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

The letter was signed by the entire Maryland congressional delegation, including Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, GOP Rep. Andy Harris, and Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Jamie Raskin, David Trone and Glenn Ivey.

“Timely determination of a commercial fishery failure offers a significant federal tool to provide economic assistance to Maryland fishery participants, coastal communities, and predominantly small seafood businesses,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

Blue catfish, among other invasive species like flathead catfish and snakehead, are preying on local species in the Chesapeake, impacting the state’s economy and environmental conservation goals.

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The Chesapeake Bay produces about 500 million pounds of seafood each year, supporting jobs in commercial and recreational fishing. The area’s ecosystem has seen “sharp declines” in some keystone species in recent decades, according to NOAA.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) also sent a letter to Raimondo last month requesting the declaration of a commercial fishery disaster for the Chesapeake.

“It is critical to act now to mitigate the effects of these invasive species and to provide assistance to the commercial fishing industry,” Moore said.