Pony up to save bay's crabs

The Baltimore Sun

Friends, it's time for all of us in the Free State to put our money where our big fat mouths are with regard to the Chesapeake Bay blue crab.

Let's face it: The blue crab is in trouble, with a capital T.

The bay is becoming a death condo for crabs. We're catching too many. We're screwing up their natural habitat with our building and polluting.

And what do we do about it?

We form committees to study the problem. We set catch restrictions on commercial watermen that don't help much.

Then we have a heart attack when we order a dozen crabs in a restaurant and the bill comes to 75 bucks.

But according to a recent Sun article by reporter Rona Kobell, we have scientists who can create millions of baby crabs in hatcheries and release them into the bay to boost breeding stocks and bring the crab population back.

All they need is money to fund the project, because they just burned through $12 million in federal grants.

So what's the problem here?

We can't raise a few mil to get the ball rolling again?

In the great state of Maryland, one of the richest in the country?

Sure we can.

Here's the first thing we do: Launch a giant, statewide "Save the Blue Crab" campaign.

Hire a first-rate PR firm to get the word out to every media outlet.

Have a big kickoff ceremony down at the Inner Harbor. Get the governor and the mayor to speechify, maybe Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, too. (But no getting carried away with the speechifying. We don't want thousands dozing off here.)

Get big shots like Orioles owner Peter Angelos and banker Ed Hale to kick in a few hundred thousand and get involved, too.

Put the arm on Cal Ripken Jr., John Waters, Anne Tyler, David Simon and all the other celebrities around here. Wait a minute, do we have any other celebrities around here?

Oh, right, Jenna Bush. She's moving to Baltimore with her new husband. As soon as the moving van pulls up, someone in a "Save the Blue Crab" T-shirt should ring the doorbell and hit her up for a contribution.

(Jenna, you made a bundle from the wedding. And how many flat-screen TVs do you guys need, anyway. Plus, it's for a great cause, honest.)

But a huge part of the campaign will be the involvement -- and financial commitment -- of Joe and Jane Sixpack.

How do we get them to cough up dough to save the crabs?

In the past, I would have said: Easy. Lay the mother of all guilt trips on them.

Tell 'em we're killing this precious natural resource. Tell 'em to stop crabbing, eating crabs, buying crabs until the population rises -- or else their children and grandchildren may never enjoy crabs from the bay again.

But I'm not that naive anymore.

Guilt doesn't work with Maryland crab-lovers.

Eating a dozen steamed crabs on a hot summer night -- that's practically a birthright around here.

But that doesn't mean Marylanders don't have a sense of decency or a personal interest in stopping the blue crab's death spiral.

So, put a "Save the Blue Crab" collection bucket in every seafood market, crab house and seafood restaurant in the state and watch them fill up.

People are more apt to throw in a few bucks when they're walking around with a gut full of crabs and beer. Plus, you'd be surprised how generous crab lovers can be when they're half-looped.

Put a "Save the Blue Crab" bucket in convenience stores, coffee shops, pizza joints and diners. Have cute school kids go door to door on weekend beg-a-thons for the cause.

Get businesses to make pledges the way they do to the United Way campaign -- only have them be a little less annoying about pressuring their workers to contribute.

We need to raise some cash in a hurry, people.

The blue crab is running out of time.

And the hunting season is almost here.


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