May 2, 2014
CAMBRIDGE, Md.- A group of watermen took the day off work Thursday to protest and block a project by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in the Little Choptank River in Dorchester County.
They got a late start Thursday morning, but their catch of the day wasn't crab, it was a boat delivering workers to a barge in the Little Choptank River. The watermen are opposed to the idea of putting a layer of fossilized oyster shells along 187 acres of clear bottom in the river to provide a hard substrate for oyster spat to cling to, creating a new oyster bed. The DNR said this will provide an ecosystem for thousands of oysters which can further speed up efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries such as the Little Choptank, as well as provide a habitat for crabs and fish.
But watermen are not in agreement. They say the project would cover up the mud that crabs will soon be crawling out of, and make the area unharvestable in the future.
During Thursday's protests the watermen were in 11 boats and stopped a crane from putting the shells in the river at 6 a.m. Almost five hours later, the Maryland Environmental Service ordered the work to be shut down for the day, before even one shovelful had been out in the river. Dwane Paul, a waterman from Church Creek, says the number of watermen and boats was instrumental in their success.
"I think it's gonna take that many and a lot more. We need all the help we can get and now's the time to stand up for it." said Paul.