I recently toured a crab picking house on the eastern shore of VA where watermen drop off fresh catches of blue crabs. As I was waiting in the office several customers arrived with small coolers to collect crabmeat. It made me think of the crabcakes my mom and aunt used to make when I was kid. Fried or broiled, I loved them. Unfortunately, picking houses like these (and the crabcakes I ate as a kid) are declining in number, in part due to the import of crabmeat from outside the Chesapeake. Evidence of this can be seen at seafood restaurants around the region that have on their menu "Maryland Style" crabcakes. Be assured, the style has to do with how they are breaded and seasoned and not where the meat comes from.
I am concerned that imported crabmeat, among other combining factors, is unfairly placing our local crab industry at risk. I am certain that we can "Save the Bay." However, I want to work towards saving our crabbing economy as well. It's an industry that produces signifcant revenue and jobs and should not be outsourced. So when I go to restaurants I ask the waiter, "What does it mean by Maryland-Style?" You'd be surprised how many servers have no idea where the meat comes from. I then try and order something locally caught, if available.
And the next time I go to the eastern shore I am taking a cooler and visiting that crabhouse. Then maybe I will invite my Mom over for dinner. Crabcakes will be on the menu.
Joe Lerch is a senior land planner in CBF's Virginia office.