At this point in time, we are at a crisis in the management of the Chesapeake Bay resources. Current regulatory policies regarding the harvesting of crabs and other marine resources are threatening the livelihoods of several thousand men and women in the Chesapeake Bay country who follow the water.
Put yourself in our gumboats and consider these developments taking place on the Bay and think whether you could abide by them.
Would you like to have your work hours controlled to a period of 6:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., where working beyond that period would be breaking the law? Would you like to be told by a state agency that you could only work a total of 48 hours a week during a season that lasts only 180 days for putting groceries on the table?
Would you be worried and angry with a law that forces watermen to go out on the Bay when there are thunderstorms, heavy seas or dense fog because they have to work within the hour limitations of the day?
How would you feel if you were blamed for the environmental developments affecting the Bay that were beyond your control?
Lastly, how would you feel if you were part of the only group to be seriously regulated in your industry or way of life?
The Chesapeake Bay watermen and the businesses that serve them are ready to shoulder their fair burden of the Bay’s conservation effort.
What they resent is being targeted by the bureaucrats of the Bay management program as the easiest sector to manage because they lack the clout of powerful, well-connected social and political organizations in Maryland and the Bay country. Watermen don’t have lobbyists in Armani suits defending them in Annapolis.
Recently, at great cost to individual watermen, the Save The Watermen Coalition raised $50 apiece from concerned watermen who were fed up with the existing policies. For a waterman, that’s a lot of money. It was enough for us to hire a lawyer to confront state agencies on these matters.
We have stated our position over and over. It seems that no one is listening to us in Annapolis.
We shall not be deterred, however. We will keep presenting our science and our facts till we are treated honestly and fairly by the Department of Natural Resources and other state agencies. He is what we want:
1. We want the regulation and licensing of so-called recreational crabbers. They are taking record amounts of crabs from the Bay each season. We estimate that they are taking one half of the crab supply. The image of the tourist using a chicken neck to catch a few crabs is misleading and inaccurate.
2. We want the rockfish conservationists and sports fishing industry to shoulder their share of the Bay preservation burden by opening up the Bay to increased fishing. Rockfish are crab predators that gobble up millions of crabs a year. We want the state to increase the catch limits of charter boats to help diminish the rampant oversupply of croaker fish in the Bay, which also prey heavily on Bay crab populations.
3. We want environmental policy makers to take a closer look at how sewer systems are flooding Bay waters with effluent that kills marine life. We want a serious curtailment of mosquito spraying over crab grounds and marshes. Mosquito spraying kills crabs and greatly increases the mortality of peeler crabs for soft-shell crab watermen.
4. Finally, we want a sensible science-based conservation policy for the Bay fisheries that the watermen can understand and work with. We want to see for ourselves how the science is arrived at that limits our licensed right to harvest the fishery. We want peer-reviewed science that is free from the the kind of political and social agendas that the bureaucrats in Annapolis seem so intent on foisting upon us.
Finally, we want a Chesapeake Bay that we can pass on to our children in terms of living and working in one of God’s prettiest areas. Watermen are the salt of the earth. If they vanish, how will our precious Bay be savored?