Limited Entry for Commercial Fishing Licenses


In 1988, Maryland limited entry into the commercial fishery began through a delayed entry program. At that time a new entrant had to register with the Department two years before receiving a license to catch finfish, crabs, oysters, or clams. Anyone who held a license as of September 1, 1988 was exempt. Because the law did not place a cap on the number of licenses that could be issued, the law did little more than slow the entry of new fisherman into Maryland waters.

Legislation enacted in 1994 ( Natural Resources Article, 4-701, Annotated Code of Maryland) established a moratorium on the issuance of new commercial licenses after all the then (4/1/94) existing applicants on the two year wait list were issued licenses (4/1/96). An individual had to apply with the Department for a new authorization to participate in a commercial fishing activity. The Department maintained separate waiting lists of primary and secondary candidates for each fishing activity in order of the date and time the applications were received. Under Natural Resources Article, 4-701, Annotated Code of Maryland; subsection (d) (2) (ii), a primary candidate was an applicant that:

  • Held a current license and wished to upgrade or change licenses, or
  • Had been a crew member for 2 years certified by 3 current licensees, or
  • Held a valid license from another state, or
  • A family member of a current licensee.

All other applicants who did not qualify for the primary wait list were placed on the secondary wait list. Law and regulation stipulated that the Department may not issue a harvest license (after 4/1/96) " unless the total number issued for that type of activity is less than the number of authorizations which the Department determines is appropriate for the resources and consistent with fishery management plans." No new commercial licenses were issued in Maryland after 4/1/96, pending the setting of the number of appropriate authorizations.


Effective June 1, 1998, the moratorium on the issuance of commercial fishing licenses was lifted, with a target cap for the number of licenses of each type. The key elements are summarized below:

  • Candidates on the primary waiting list through 1997 were issued licenses
  • Remaining candidates were required to complete an apprenticeship prior to being issued a license
  • Most remaining candidates were immediately eligible to start the apprenticeship program or receive a refund
  • Remaining candidates that were not immediately eligible to start the apprenticeship are maintained on a waitlist until additional apprenticeship permits are available under the cap
  • Nonresidents are charged $350, or higher, depending on the difference between the total fees charged to a Maryland resident engaged in like fishing activities in the state of residence of the nonresident applicant and the total of normal license fees for fishing activities in Maryland