Maryland’s New Crab Crisis

Maryland is famous for its sweet-blue crabs and crab cakes that pile on restaurant tables every summer. However, Maryland’s prominent crab industry is currently facing a major crisis just one month into the season. Due to the Trump administration’s notable visa cut, almost half of the Eastern Shore’s crab houses are at a loss for workers who are needed to pick the crab meat. This will most likely result in soaring costs for local-crab meat among other impacts.

In years prior, visas were given on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, this year, the Trump administration mandated for the first time that these visas be given by a lottery system. Likewise, the administration attempts to mask its harmful regulations behind its crackdown on illegal immigration. However, the administration is not directing efforts towards undocumented immigrants. It’s also hindering immigration that is not only completely legal but also vital towards a prosperous economy. Maryland’s crab industry is one of the many industries fighting to stay afloat as the number of temporary workers continues to plummet.

The Trump Administration is responding to multiple complaints regarding the overwhelming shortage of seasonal workers. As a result, the administration promised to approve 15,000 more guest worker visas. However, these will continue to be based on a lottery system and leave many of Maryland’s crab houses fearing that it won’t result in an adequate amount of employees to fulfill the demands of the workplaces.

Maryland’s crab industry has a long history with visa shortages. The majority of crab meat used to be picked by women residing on the Eastern Shore. However, the industry turned to workers who came from Mexico in the 1980s. The seasonal workers were permitted to live and work in the United States during the summer months as many helped supply the demand for Maryland crabs. Then, the workers would return to their homes in the winter. Maryland’s crab houses have been dependent on this system and on the work of Mexican workers for over 25 years and now are continuing to fight to find workers.

Not only is the industry in jeopardy, but so are the livelihoods and lifestyles of the Marylanders who rely on this work for a living. Without this business, many of the state’s residents will have to readjust. However, according to an article published by The Independent, many of the residents who are feeling the impact due to Trump’s regulations don’t blame the president. Instead, the article highlights how someone even took aim at The Chesapeake Bay Foundation for the crisis. As noted in the article, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation works to create and maintain a cleaner Chesapeake Bay and has not completed any work regarding work visas.

In addition to the seasonal-worker shortage, it’s important to note that Maryland’s crab industry also faced another crisis. Maryland experienced a cold spring, which made the state’s crab population hesitant to arise from the seasonal hibernation. However, as the state’s temperatures warm-up, the crabs are beginning to surface. Thus, the demand for seasonal workers remains on the rise. Maryland legislatures will need to take action to support the seasonal immigration that sustains and benefits the state’s economy.