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Maryland Pursuing Actions to Control Invasive Catfish after Federal Fisheries Disaster Declined

In December of 2023, U.S. Department of Commerce notified Maryland Gov. Wes Moore that it has declined Maryland’s request for a federal commercial fisheries disaster declaration that was sought to help address the economic and ecological damage caused by the spread of invasive catfish and snakeheads in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Maryland made the unique request in March as a way to highlight and mitigate the harm that invasive Chesapeake blue catfish, flathead catfish, and snakehead have on economically important Bay species such as blue crabs and menhaden, which the invasives eat. Under federal law, fishery disaster requests can be granted after a state experiences a large, sudden, and unexpected decrease in fish stock that causes a significant loss in a commercial fishery. Commerce ruled that blue catfish have not had sufficient impact on commercial fishery revenues to qualify for fisheries disaster aid. In the letter notifying Maryland of its decision, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo wrote that NOAA Fisheries recognizes the challenges invasive species have created in the Bay ecosystem and offered to discuss potential opportunities in the future with Maryland. “We’re disappointed in the decision, but also understand the ruling due to the limits of federal law surrounding […]

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