National Fisherman

Mixed Catch 

jerryJerry Fraser is NF's publisher and former editor.



It's nice to see an environmental group has Chesapeake Bay watermen's back.

No, that is not a typo.

This week, Environment Maryland Research and Policy released a report that details the impacts of an unhealthy Chesapeake Bay for the area's commercial fishing industry.

"After 25 years of government efforts, the Chesapeake Bay is still dangerously sick, and the bay's watermen are paying the steepest price," said Tommy Landers, policy advocate for Environment Maryland in a press statement. "After decades of voluntary programs, minimal accountability, and lax enforcement of bay protections, it's crystal clear that we need greater accountability and better enforcement of limits on all sources of pollution."

The report, entitled "Watermen Blues: Economic, Cultural and Community Impacts of Poor Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay," includes case studies of watermen and others impacted directly by the lagging commercial fishing industry. It says pollution from wastewater treatment plants, paved surfaces in urban areas, agricultural fertilizers, and farmland runoff fuel the annual proliferation of dead zones that block sunlight from underwater grasses and suck up oxygen needed for marine life.

In 1999, 30 percent of the bay's deep areas met the dissolved oxygen goal of 5 parts per million or more. From 2006 to 2008, only 16 percent of the bay's deep waters met the goal, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program.

And as fish and shellfish numbers have declined, so have watermen's. Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen's Association, told The (Gaithersburg, Md.) Gazette , that as recently as six years ago 10,000 people did some form of commercial fishing. Today, Maryland has 5,931 licensed commercial crabbers.

The report recommends placing stronger limits on pollution from agriculture and development plus stepping up efforts to curb pollution from wastewater treatment plants. Doing so could restore the health of Chesapeake Bay and invigorate the region's fishing industry. Kudos to Environment Maryland for recognizing the industry's importance and supporting the region's watermen.

Inside the Industry

The anti-mining group Salmon Beyond Borders expressed disappointment and dismay last week at Alaska Governor Bill Walker’s announcement that he has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

This came just days after his administration asked members of his newly-formed Transboundary Rivers Citizens Advisory Work Group to provide comment on a Draft Statement of Cooperation associated with Transboundary mining.


NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.

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