Save Small Watershed Grants!

I would like reply to the two commentaries, “Dialogue calls for more action, less talk,” (May 2001), and “The Restoration for of the Chesapeake Bay for Dummies,” (April 2001), where there is agreement that the pace of restoration is too slow and disagreement about where to focus resources.

Although Bill Matuszeski argues that the Susquehanna River contributes nearly half of the freshwater flow to the Bay, he skips over the need to democratize environmental responsibility. On the other hand, Matuszeski does note the need for “a lot more money than current political leaders have been willing to admit or allot to the cause.”

Just when we recognize and fund localities and community watershed organizations to bring the message to the people, the EPA is cutting the Small Watershed Grants.

This is an unacceptable retreat from an innovative recognition of the critical upstream contributions — both positive and negative.

Here on the streets and streams of Baltimore, there is confusion over whether EPA Administrator Christie Whitman will support community efforts or retreat to the central bureaucracy of the EPA.

Our experience is that the general urban public needs both education and leadership.

Aggressive networking by the Herring Run Watershed Association has developed meaningful partnerships with neighborhoods, civic groups, colleges and government agencies.

With knowledge comes a thirst for action. Reduction of such useful supports as the Small Watershed Grants program is a step away from the environmental stewardship we advocate.

Richard S. Hersey
Executive Director
Herring Run Watershed Association

Give us less complaining, more blue crab conservation

I would like to respond to the commentary, “Watermen ask to be treated fairly in crab management plans,” by Terrence Conway, chairman of the Blue Crab Conservation Coalition in Crisfield, MD that appeared in the April issue of the Bay Journal.

This was one of the most misleading portrayals of the problem and solutions facing the current crisis in the Bay’s blue crab fishery.

The writer paints the picture that Maryland Department of Natural Resources policies are unfair to the commercial interest when there are strong feelings among most sport fishermen that just the opposite is true.

Maryland has a long history of exploitation of the Bay: 99 percent of the Bay’s oysters have been taken; the Atlantic sturgeon is almost extinct; and the rockfish are recovering from overharvest.

Sportsmen feel strongly that the political structure in Maryland has long held a bias in favor of commercial watermen to the detriment of conservation.

Mr. Conway does not accept the work of the scientific community which has clearly stated that the blue crab harvest must be reduced to maintain a future supply of the blue crab. Instead, he bemoans the difficulties of being a commercial fisherman.

Granted, the work can be difficult at times, but this is irrelevant to the fact that too many crabs are being harvested.

While the recreational folks have agreed to a licensing program and a significant reduction in the harvest quota to one bushel, plus gear restrictions, the commercial side has done little, except to complain loudly when any restrictions to lower their catch are proposed.

Their position is even more disconcerting if you accept the widely held premise that they catch the majority of the crabs. Any boater will readily attest to the abundance of crab pot floats dotting the Bay.

Mr. Conway suggests that the commercial fishermen are ready to do their “fair share,” yet he suggests nothing but the continuation of the overharvesting of the blue crab coupled with an increased assault on the hardhead and rockfish populations which have recently achieved reasonable population levels.

Although the title of this commercial coalition contains the word, “conservation,” conservation is not evident in its position.

Jack Streb
Local chapter president
Coastal Conservation Association