ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Gov. Larry Hogan urged federal officials Friday to make more H-2B nonimmigrant temporary worker program visas available to help protect Maryland’s $355 million seafood industry and supply chain.

TOPSHOT – Wonn Kain processes crab at Bay Hundred Seafood in St. Michaels, Maryland on October 7, 2020 – As crab season arrived in Hoopersville, Maryland, locals began asking where Jose Bronero Cruz was. For two decades, he’d traveled from Mexico to the remote town to pick crab meat, but this spring, he did not arrive. (Photo by Chris STEIN and Chris Stein / AFP) (Photo by CHRIS STEIN/AFP via Getty Images)

“In support of Maryland’s seafood industry and other seasonal employers, I request that you take immediate action to eliminate the unfair lottery system and increase the number of H-2B Nonimmigrant Temporary Worker Program visas—now capped at 66,000—to the maximum allowable under federal law and under the legislative language included in the omnibus bill,” said Governor Hogan. “These essential workers are vital to Maryland’s seafood industry and market, which has grown to include regional, national, and international reach.”

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In a typical year, 450 H-2B seasonal workers are needed for Maryland’s 23 licensed crab picking houses. University of Maryland research indicated that every H-2B worker in crab processing creates 2.5 jobs for American citizens.

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“Without these temporary workers, and without an end to the arbitrary lottery system, local Maryland seafood processors will be unable to open for business or be forced to significantly reduce their operations,” said Governor Hogan. “Continued hardship could permanently damage America’s seafood industry, causing these iconic family and small businesses to close here in Maryland, especially those on the Eastern Shore.”

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Read the full letter here.

CBS Baltimore Staff