Maryland hopes to win sales with sustainable crab

Mar 27, 2012, 7:20 AM

Associated Press

BALTIMORE (AP) – Deciding among the crab offerings at the supermarket can be daunting. Jumbo lump, backfin or claw? Chesapeake, Gulf or Indonesian?

Competition is tough when it comes to the packaged blue crab meat many associate with the Chesapeake Bay but which often comes from the Gulf of Mexico, Venezuela and the Far East. That’s one reason Maryland fisheries officials hope to set their catch apart by touting the state’s sustainable fishing methods.

Maryland is in the early stages of seeking Marine Stewardship Council certification for its blue crab harvest, which one chef predicted would be “huge” in helping sales. The state is seeking the certification as more people become concerned about where their food comes from and how its production affects the environment.

The certification looks at the impact of harvesting on the environment and other species, whether fisheries managers have the ability to monitor the species and whether the harvest is being tracked adequately. Louisiana recently won certification for its crab harvest, and Maryland also has applied for its striped bass fishery.

“Restaurants are really looking for something like that. There are a lot of restaurants that focus on sustainability issues and they really haven’t had a blue crab to be able to embrace,” said Steve Vilnit, seafood marketing specialist for Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.

Crabs are the Chesapeake Bay’s biggest moneymaker, bringing in $52 million in Maryland in 2009, and many chefs believe they are among the world’s best. The lower salinity of the upper Chesapeake Bay makes the meat sweeter and more tender, and the crabs hibernate over the winter, storing fat that makes them taste richer than nonhibernating crabs from farther south, said Chad Wells, executive chef at Alewife in Baltimore.

But competition is tough and with prices topping $20 a pound for Maryland’s picked crab meat, many buyers look elsewhere for cheaper alternatives. MSC certification would give consumers another reason to buy Maryland crab, and Wells said he thought it would be “huge” in getting it into more supply chains.

David Pilat, global seafood buyer for Whole Foods Market Inc., said a survey commissioned by the natural and organic grocery chain found nearly 60 percent of its shoppers consider sustainability an important part of their purchasing decision, and it has seen MSC-certified seafood sales grow.

Jason Ruth, a seafood buyer for Harris Seafood in Grasonville, which provides oysters and crabs to supermarkets nationwide, 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.”

Maryland’s crab population is one of the most well-studied in the world, and officials believe that and the state’s strict harvest management will help in certification efforts. While the Chesapeake’s crab population was in decline, it has bounced back since severe harvest restrictions were instituted in 2008. The changes included cutting the harvest by a third, shortening the season and protecting hibernating female crabs.

Fisheries that have received MSC certification range from Alaskan Pollock to Oregon’s Dungeness crab and a lobster fishery on Mexico’s Baja peninsula, said Kerry Coughlin, MSC’s regional director for the Americas.

About 300 fisheries are in the program, with more than 130 certified. In addition to certifying fisheries, the group also certifies supply chains so seafood can be traced from boat to shelf.

In a very crowded marketplace, where more than 80 percent of the seafood sold in the United States is imported, Coughlin said certification can help consumers make decisions that make a difference.

“It’s not so much advocacy as market forces, and consumers can take part in that,” Coughlin said. “They’re helping to motivate fisheries, and that’s what we are seeing on the fisheries side _ the fisheries are motivated.”

___

Online:

Marine Stewardship Council:
http://www.msc.org

Maryland Department of Natural Resources:
http://www.dnr.state.md.us

Alewife:
http://alewifebaltimore.com

Whole Foods Market Inc.:
http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com

Harris Seafood:
http://www.harriscrabhouse.com

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Demonstrators stage a rally in front of the White House to celebrate President Joe Biden's plan to ...
Kevin Stone

Lawsuits keeping over 300,000 Arizonans from getting student loan relief

Lawsuits are preventing more than 300,000 Arizonans from having some or all of their student debt dismissed, the Biden administration said Friday.
17 hours ago
FILE -  A Goodyear tire sits on display at a tire shop on Feb. 12, 2014, in South Euclid, Ohio. A f...
Associated Press

Arizona lawyer subpoenaed in criminal investigation of Goodyear tires

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles is gathering evidence in a criminal investigation of Goodyear recreational vehicle tires.
2 days ago
Following days of rain, floodwaters cover streets in the Planada community of Merced County, Calif....
Associated Press

Atmospheric rivers in California boost water allocation for cities

Public water agencies in California will be getting more water from the state because of recent heavy rain.
2 days ago
(Brian Munoz/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)...
Associated Press

FDA declines to regulate CBD; calls on Congress for fix

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday there are too many unknowns about CBD products to regulate them as foods or supplements under the agency’s current structure and called on Congress to create new rules for the massive and growing market. The marijuana-derived products have become increasingly popular in lotions, tinctures and foods, while their […]
2 days ago
FILE - An employee works in the battery assembly hall at the BMW Spartanburg plant in Greer, S.C., ...
Associated Press

US economy slowed but still grew at 2.9% rate last quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy expanded at a 2.9% annual pace from October through December, ending 2022 with momentum despite the pressure of high interest rates and widespread fears of a looming recession. Thursday’s estimate from the Commerce Department showed that the nation’s gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of economic output — […]
2 days ago
(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)...
Associated Press

Pope Francis discusses his health, critics and future of papacy

In his first interview since the death of retired Pope Benedict XVI, Francis tells The Associated Press he plans to continue for as long as he can as bishop of Rome
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Maryland hopes to win sales with sustainable crab