Save the watermen, too

It was disappointing to read the two letters (“Tangier watermen feel betrayed by CBF” & “CBF sorry for breakdown in communication,” January-February 2000) revealing the strains within, if not the total dissolution of, the recently created cooperative relationship between the Tangier community, or at least a significant part of it, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Dr. Hirshfield’s apology taking responsibility for “our part in the breakdown of communication,” and reiterating the belief of the CBF that their “vision of a healthy, restored Bay includes working watermen and thriving watermen’s communities” seems an appropriate gesture, but does not reassure this observer to any great degree. Quick public mea culpas and non-specific promises to do better are so common and so commonly empty in our culture that they have no impact. More importantly, there is a good reason to believe that the CBF, even if it has the will, does not at present possess the mechanisms to either ameliorate significantly or avoid future adversarial relationships with people whose lifestyles and livelihoods are intertwined on a daily basis with the environment.

Frequent publications and press releases bear consistent testimony to the fact that there are numbers of personnel on the staff for the CBF and other organizations who are dedicated to the study of the activities and environmental needs of the plant and animal organisms that live in or around the Bay. The information they produce educates the public and, it must be assumed, they provide the scientific data and the advocacy for their species when policy decisions are made within the organization. Thus, there is less likelihood that the proposed activities favor, for instance, the rockfish at the unnecessary expense of the blue crab.

No such articles, publications or press releases can be found revealing serious, objective study of the cultures of the waterman or farmer. Thus, the public is not provided with sound information to to broaden their understanding of the needs and contributions of these elements of the total ecological picture, elements which to many are quite unknown and different. A review of the January-February Bay Journal, especially the draft Chesapeake 2000 Agreement ill-ustrates this fact. More importantly, it seems quite likely that there is no informed, sensitive and dedicated official advocate for the waterman and farmer in policy discussions.

Every environmental group needs at least one, for a start, staff person trained in anthropology or cultural psychology to study the communities around the Bay; to establish a knowledge-seeking and knowledge-providing link with those people; to use that knowledge to educate the public; and, most critical of all, be an advocate for those communities when decisions are made.

It might just be that a person with this perspective would have spoken up at some internal meeting and at least alerted CBF decision-makers to the fact that their position on the crab fishery was clearly going to endanger the new cooperative relationship.

Surely, the CBF must realize that it was this sort of perspective, by chance and voluntary, that initiated the FAIITH activity two years ago. If such activity is as important and right as this reader thinks, it should be incorporated on a regular and official basis in every environmental organization.

Somerville Parker
Reedville, VA

Spencer Fullerton Baird

Usually, I am reluctant to comment when I find an editorial error, but feel compelled in this case. Your lead sentence in “Fishway construction starts at Little Falls Dam on Potomac,” November 1999, has the wrong first name for the head of the U.S. Commission of Fish & Fisheries. The first commissioner of the agency and the individual responsible for its founding was Spencer Fullerton Baird.

Baird directed the Commission until his death at the Woods Hole Laboratory on Aug. 19, 1887. The National Marine Fisheries Service, the successor to the original commission, celebrated its 125th anniversary in 1996.

Kenneth L. Beal
Assistant Director, NMFS

Set more limits on development

I am extremely concerned about the Bay and the area we live in. I am especially concerned about deforestation and the building of developments. This is happening because more people are moving to areas around the Bay and more developments are being built.

I don’t think anything is being done about it but I have a solution. I think there should be a limit on the amount of trees being cut down and that trees should be planted in place of the ones being cut.

There should also be limits on the amount of developments being built in our area.

Kim Scoffone
North East, MD

Don’t spoil the Bay

This is a response to John M. Williams’ commentary, “Dredge spoil disposal solution lies between rock & hard place” (December 1999), on the disposal of spoil material from the shipping channels of the Bay.

What is the long-term outlook for transoceanic shipping through the Port of Baltimore? If the number of large ships is declining, it does not make much sense to dredge enough spoil to accommodate the larger ships.

The long-term value of the Bay, it seems to me, is recreational and aesthetic rather than commercial — except for the harvesting of seafood, which we hope will again be more plentiful. Bring back the skipjack!

Ralph H. Twining
Baltimore, MD