True Blue logo for places selling Maryland crab

Watermen and state seafood processors hope the crab-consuming public will reward restaurants and markets that show their commitment to sell Maryland-caught crabs by displaying this "True Blue" logo. (Maryland Department of Natural Resources / June 7, 2012)

With crab season upon us, Maryland's "True Blue" campaign is gaining steam. 

The Department of Natural Resources launched the marketing push earlier this year to promote crabmeat caught in state waters, which is often shunned by restaurants and markets in favor of cheaper imported meat from Indonesia and Venezuela.

While many places tout "Maryland crab cakes" on their menus, it's no secret that they're often simply serving Maryland-style cakes, with a little Old Bay dressing up "come-here" crabmeat. Indeed, DNR's seafood marketing specialist Stephen Vilnit estimates that only about 2 percent of restaurants use state-caught crabmeat  For Maryland watermen and seafood dealers, that's a source of continuing frustration, as imported products squeeze them out of the market.

Believing the crab-eating public would prefer locally caught seafood if they only knew where to get it, DNR is offering to let participating merchants display the "True Blue" logo on their menus and seafood counters.  The businesses don't have to sell exclusively Maryland crab, since it's not readily available year-round, but are asked to pledge to buy at least 75 percent of their crabs or crabmeat from Maryland.

So far, about 60 restaurants and markets have signed up.  To see the list of places serving "True Blue" Maryland crab, go here.