Blue Crabs Smiling

by Jim McCarthy

The image of Nero fiddling while Rome was ablaze may be apocryphal, but the moral is clear: pay attention to your surroundings. It’s been nearly four weeks since the announcement that the sperm capacity of Chesapeake blue crabs has been found to be in decline, threatening the viability (motility?) of the crustacean’s population. However, not a word has been reported in the interim on BR while its diverse contributors and commenters bloviate about favored topics and clever names to call those who dare to offer their versions of bloggery wisdom. Lesser such crises have been sufficient to call a special session of the General Assembly.

Fourteen years ago, JAB wistfully mourned childhood memories about blue crab fishing as two state governors – Tim Kaine and Martin O’Malley – announced that the Chesapeake crab population had sustained a significant decline. The BR appeal drew not a single comment from readers although the platform was already six years old at the time.

Thirty years ago, Maryland officially adopted Callinectes sapidus (Greek for beautiful swimmer) as the state crustacean and honors that nomination by providing license plates with a crab image. Over time, Virginia’s neighbor has developed a well-orchestrated campaign to ensure its imprimatur upon the blue crab, at times relegating the Old Dominion to the status of a lesser attractive jurisdiction.

Some Virginia crabbers attribute the blue crab sperm decline (BCSD) to a sinister plot by Marylanders who still smart from the attempt by former Governor Terry McAuliffe’s to malign the view that the Old Line State’s appetite and promotion of its crabs are due to the profligacy of the Commonwealth’s macho male and beautiful female blue crabs. During a radio interview in 2015, TMac threw down the gauntlet in this statement:

You know, Maryland talks about its crabs. All the crabs are born here in Virginia, and they end up, because of the current, being taken [to Maryland]. So really, they should be Virginia crabs.

Marine biologists confirmed the statement following political fact-checking which concluded that, indeed, Chesapeake Bay crabs are conceived and born in the lower (Virginia) section of the bay, where the water is saltier, and conditions are right for crab baby-making. The crab larvae drift to the salty Atlantic Ocean for a bit and then waft back up the Bay towards Maryland.

The Commonwealth has an obligation to its crustacean resources as well as its citizens to face directly current economic and environmental challenges. State funding to support a crab fertility laboratory is an obvious first step investment. A tourism initiative should be undertaken to promote the state’s blue crab attractiveness along with a broad campaign to compete with “Virginia is for Lovers,” such as “Virginia is for ABCD,” or “American Blue Crab Destination.” An aggressive public relations campaign would mitigate fear of crabs, or kavouriphobia, improving and increasing restaurant traffic. A group of crabs is called a “cast,’ an appellation that the state might seek to have adopted by professional or collegiate sports organizations. Thoroughfare re-naming would add a touch of finesse.

One translation of Virginia’s motto – Sic Semper Tyrannis – is that bad things will happen to tyrants. Maryland’s oppressive and monopolistic domination of the blue crab in symbolic, and political terms ought to motivate state and local leadership in the Commonwealth into action. The crisis is not a culture war matter nor a gender-bender one. Both male and female blue crabs are threatened and there are no contraceptive or privacy concerns involved.

Conquer the BCSD phenomenon without masks, vaccines, or quarantine!! Encourage counties to adopt policies for crab sanctuaries. Issue crab license plates with the slogans Virginia is ABCD and for American Blue Crab Lovers!!
BR’s clout with the state’s economic and political leadership can add the intellectual power to this necessity and overcome the extant force majeure to set the wheels in motion. Onward BR soldiers. Make a crab smile!

Jim McCarthy is a former New York attorney who now lives in Virginia.