Future for watermen looks bleak after DNR regulation

CAMBRIDGE, Md. – “They’ve got it micromanaged so bad that it’s almost impossible to make a living,” said eastern shore waterman, Bob Whaples.

The future of oyster harvesting here on the shore is looking grim.

“I was hoping I would be able to run my life out doing this, but it’s looking like that’s not going to happen,” said local waterman, Scott Todd.

Almost three weeks before the start of the harvest season, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced a regulation change to reduce the state’s oyster harvest by nearly 30%.

“Could you imagine taking 30% of your pay away? It’s hard you know,” said Whaples.

To do this DNR officials say watermen are not allowed to do any commercial harvesting on Wednesdays. But they say it’s all in an effort to help restore the oyster population that are at historic lows in the Chesapeake Bay.

“You’re looking at a season that used to be 5 months long now it would be 7 or 8 weeks. Its already been over-regulated now to the point that it’s almost impossible to even make a living out of it,” said Todd.

Watermen tell 47 ABC instead of enforcing these regulations, they’d want to see state officials bring back the shell program. An oyster shell recycling initiative that watermen say provides a natural habitat for new oysters.

“We had a seed and shell program that worked for five decades that produced millions of bushels of oysters, and we don’t have that anymore.” said Todd.

“It would be enough shell to take care of the public bottom, the sanctuary bottom, and all of aquaculture people. So everybody would be happy,” said Whaples.

But until a viable solution is put in place, local watermen say the future of their industry may not be here for much longer.

Categories: Local News, Maryland