“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 http://ww2.gazette.net/stories/09182009/polinew200735_32531.shtml , 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.