Maryland crabcakes are a veritable melting pot of crabmeat from different parts of the world these days. Often, when you order a “Maryland” crabcake off the menu at your favorite crab house, it may have no Maryland-originating crab meat in it at all, thanks to the globalization of the crabmeat markets. In an economy where Chesapeake crab meat is competing with brands sourcing their far-less-expensive crabmeat in the Gulf of Mexico, the Carolinas, and even as far away Venezula or Indonesia, consumers (whether restaurants buying in bulk or individuals ponying up $20 a pound) may have a hard time justifying how eating Bay seafood make sense to their wallet’s bottom line.
But some things are tough to put a price on- and that’s exactly what Maryland is hoping customers will think when spending a little more for Chesapeake crabmeat that’s not only delicious, but certified ‘sustainably harvested’. Maryland is still in the early stages of applying for the certification through the Marine Stewardship Council, which has provided similar stamps of approval (and summarily increased marketability) for Oregon’s dungeness crab harvest and lobsters caught off California’s Baja peninsula. The hope is that as shoppers assess all the different options for crabmeat, that stamp of sustainability will give Maryland meat the edge.
In an article in Businessweek, Jason Ruth, a seafood buyer for Harris Seafood in Grasonville, said he also has seen a shift toward sustainability over the past three or four years.
“A lot of the food service industry – your chain food stores like Whole Foods, Wegman’s, Safeway – are all leaning toward that right now,” Ruth said. “They only want to deal with MSC-certified fisheries.”
And Maryland has certainly taken steps to protect the populations of blue crabs in the Chesapeake, most notably a severe restriction on the harvest of female crabs several years ago that ultimately increased substantially the amount of crabs in the Chesapeake. (I should note that crabs in particular are well-suited to respond positively and almost immediately this kind of restriction due to their very short life-cycle.) In a marketplace where almost 80 percent of the seafood is imported, population-sustaining measures protecting local species helps promote eating fresh regional seafood, harvested with an eye towards the future, while also eating well.
To read the full article on Maryland’s move towards MSC certification, click through here: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-03/D9TOMKG00.htm