Wal-Mart, Foreign Crabs Threaten Chesapeake Culture

Scanning the Bay these languid summer days, you don't see what hazards lurk beneath the surface. But they're out there, threatening to diminish Chesapeake Country as we've known it.

One threat is the Wal-Mart proposed by a New Jersey developer for the Parole shopping center on Rt. 2. Another is the growing quantity of imported crab meat that you may be buying in packages deceitfully labeled "Maryland style" crab cakes.

Where Wal-Marts take root, they undermine local merchants with low prices made possible by truckloads of foreign-made goods. Wal-Marts are expanding across the country like an invasion from outer space. There will be over 700 of them by year's end if the company wins its many skirmishes with local communities:

· In Allentown, Pa., a new Wal-Mart threatens a beloved creek.

· Near St. Petersburg, the company wants to build over wetlands.

· In Tennessee, a Wal-Mart threatens an ancient burial site.

Wal-Mart racked up $137 billion in sales last year. But the chain is known for giving little back to the communities it invades - beyond minimum wages and what tax laws demand.

Granted, Wal-Marts aren't a lot different from other department stores these days, where you can search long and hard for something with a Made in U.S.A. label. Unfortunately, many people say loudly with their cash and credit cards that it's okay if we no longer produce shoes, fishing rods and lamps in America.

One thing we've always proudly produced in Chesapeake Country is blue crabs, sold in the shell locally and picked for easy eating in Maryland and afar. Now Maryland crabmeat, crabbers, crab pickers and crab packers are threatened by imports from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and South America.

A Baltimore Sun article June 27 served as a siren to unsuspecting Baysiders. The Sun calculated that the imported crab meat picked by low-paid workers in developing countries has grabbed two-thirds of the U.S. market.

A leader in the transformation of the crabbing industry is the Baltimore-based company that owns the Phillips seafood restaurant, one of which has just opened in Annapolis. Instead of Atlantic blue crab, your crabcake there is likely to be Asian blue swimming crab. When you're told you're getting "blue crab," it's technically the truth.

This trend threatens the existence of Maryland crab-picking houses. It also is dangerous to watermen who rely on crab houses for their markets after Labor Day when many whole-crab eaters have packed away their mallets for the season.

What do we do about it? First, think about your sense of place. Is the Chesapeake Bay culture special to you? Is it important that small businesses in our region flourish? More simply, do you care about where things come from and how they fit together?

If your answers are yes, don't be shy about speaking out. Ask questions and pay attention to the answers.

We'll be saying no to blue crab that isn't Atlantic and, ideally, harvested in Chesapeake waters.

| Issue 26 |

Volume VII Number 26
July 1-7, 1999
New Bay Times

| Homepage |
| Back to Archives |