Maryland Crab Industry Counts on Mexican Workers, But How Will They Stay Safe?

Desperate for jobs, Mexican crab pickers have slowly begun arriving on the Eastern Shore, where employers are eager for their services but wary of the grave challenges posed by the coronavirus in a business in which workers typically live and labor in close quarters.

This year’s crabbing season is fraught with difficult choices for the workers, who are nearly all women, as well as for an industry relying heavily on foreign labor to pick crab meat for sale in grocery stores and use in restaurants. The season began April 1, although many Marylanders don’t indulge until Memorial Day weekend.

Crab processing plants — many of them clustered on secluded Hoopers Island in Dorchester County — say they are taking unprecedented steps. They’re cutting the size of shift crews to maximize spacing, monitoring workers’ temperatures and reserving housing in case it’s needed for quarantines.

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