LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — Maryland Delegate Eric G. Luedtke remembers the feeling of visiting crab houses on the Chesapeake Bay as a kid, spreading out a bunch of paper on a tabletop, and digging in.
The Montgomery County Democrat hopes that Marylanders who enjoy similar traditions can continue to support the local crabbing and seafood industry, instead of unknowingly eating exports from other states and countries.
“Maryland takes pride and should take pride in our tradition of seafood and the waterman culture and I think it’s important to do what we can to preserve that,” he says.
That’s why he has introduced the “Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act,” a bill that would, among other things, prohibit grocery stores and restaurants from falsely advertising imports as Maryland seafood.
Luedtke says his inspiration for the bill came from growing up in Maryland and realizing that seafood is at the the core of the state’s identity.
He’s also “a big believer in the right of the consumer to know what they’re consuming.” Today, many people dining at local seafood restaurants are actually eating crabs from South America and South Asia without even knowing it.
“Nothing against Venezuela but, you know, if a consumer wants Maryland crabs, they should be able to figure out whether they are getting Maryland crabs.”
A Maryland DNR certification program called “True Blue” already encourages the use of locally-sourced seafood by allowing restaurants serving verified Maryland blue crab product to use a special logo in their marketing and advertising.
Luedtke says the young program was a genius idea, but points out that it’s voluntary and a lot of restaurants and grocery stores don’t participate. His legislation would go one step further by requiring all eateries to properly label and advertise their seafood.
“As with many bills, it’s possible it will take us multiple years,” Luedtke says, “but I’ve been pleased with the reaction so far.”