Release of 30,000 additional H-2B visas will help Maryland’s crab industry
WOOLFORD, Md. – The first day of April is the start of crabbing season and crab houses may be excited for this upcoming season with a recent announcement.
Last year, local crab houses on the Shore got the short end of the stick through the lottery. Lindy’s Seafood in Dorchester County says, this has caused uncertainty for them. It’s been tough to hire, make improvements and hard to plan ahead, when they aren’t 100% sure that they will get those extra workers. “There was a lot of scary times where we weren’t sure if we weren’t sure if we could continue doing what we are doing,” Lindy’s Co-Owner, Aubrey Vincent tells us.
With the change in lottery, Lindy’s Seafood was missing about 100 helping hands. Vincent says, “One of the scariest things for a long term employee, who’s been in the business for 25 years now, is that there are new people to the program, so this lottery has made it really tough those of us who have been in the program and established labor needs.”
Lindy’s Seafood luckily got the green light for this upcoming season since they were selected in the lottery, but they won’t be the only ones. Just recently, the Department of Homeland Security is offering an additional 30-thousand H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2019 to applicants who have held H-2B status in at least one of the past three fiscal years. “The concerning part is that if they don’t address the problem, we’re going to be in the same position as next year, so I’m hoping maybe this push to push the additional visas, will encourage them to do long term reform too because they’ve identified that it’s definitely a problem,” Vincent says.
We’re told this is crucial since the lack of H-2B Visa workers affects the entire industry. Lindy’s accountant, Susan Robinson tells us, “How it even affected the watermen who couldn’t bring the crabs in, we couldn’t get everything because we couldn’t pick them fast enough, we didn’t have enough workers. I’ve seen how hard they worked to get people employed and the people they have been able to do they haven’t been able to do the job, it is a continuous loss every single week for the company.”
That’s why Lindy’s Seafood, along with many others on Delmarva, are pushing for a permanent change. Vincent states, “It affects us long term because if this program doesn’t get fixed, we’re going to have to look at to continue processing Maryland crab meat the way that we have.”
Lindy’s Seafood tells us there is a rally on April 9th in Washington D.C. They want to encourage DHS that there just isn’t enough visas and to push congress for more long-term solutions.
Governor Larry Hogan also praised the decision to release additional visas and says H-2B workers are critical for Maryland’s seasonal blue crab industry. Governor Hogan says, “I am calling on Congress to do the right thing and take action to ensure our crab houses have the workers they need to be successful.”
Senator Chris Van Hollen also weighed in and made a statement: “Maryland crabs are central to our state’s economy – from watermen who harvest them from the Bay, to the crab houses who process them, to restaurants and stores across the state who sell our iconic blue crab. Lack of access to H-2B visas has had terrible consequences on our seafood industry, which I’ve repeatedly stressed to the Administration. These additional visas will bring welcome relief and ensure that crab houses have a reliable workforce. I will continue working with all stakeholders to put in place a long-term solution and protect Maryland’s economy.”