How Labor Shortages Are Hurting Maryland's Seafood Industry

Staffing issues have affected every facet of the food industry across the world. According to Financial Post, Food manufacturers in Canada have had to turn to short-term foreign workers in order to fill the gaps in assembly lines and factories. CNBC reports fast food restaurants decided to adjust their opening hours, while raising wages in order to find ways around the lack of workers.

The Maryland crab industry has also felt a similar crunch for some time. According to The New York Times, this industry used to rely on seasonal workers ever since more and more workers moved to different jobs. The Trump administration suspended visas usually supplied to foreign workers that helped fill the fields back in 2020, and President Biden had yet to address this issue as of June 2021. The lack of crab fishermen in Maryland even contributed to a crab shortage, causing the price of the seafood to skyrocket. Fast forward to 2022 and the crab industry in Maryland looks even more dire.

A hard year for the crab industry

According to WTOP, diners should continue to see a shortage of crab. While Maryland crab populations remain intact, the lack of fishermen continues to severely affect the market. The government currently authorizes 33,000 visas for temporary laborers who want to work on the Eastern Shore. Within the first two days of the visa applications opening up, 140,000 submissions poured in. 

The Maryland crab industry continues to rely on foreign workers to catch crab, as not enough Americans want to do this job, and the severe visa cap ensures that there won't be enough workers to meet consumer demands as the situation currently stands. The state government has tried to persuade congress to raise the amount of available visas in order to fill all the open positions and the current method of filling open positions relies on a lottery system used to place out-of-work laborers into the field. This method has proved less than successful, especially compared to relying on foreign workers.

Maryland crab fans might have to pay more for the seafood this year as a result of the labor shortage, which one official describes as "ugly." With any luck, the government may one day address this issue and help find a way to support this industry. In the meantime, expect rising costs on crab cakes this year.