Coronavirus pandemic taking a toll on Eastern Shore watermen
TAYLOR’S ISLAND Md. – As restaurants in Maryland move to carry-out and delivery only, the demand for seafood has dropped. And as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow, local watermen say the future of the seafood industry is looking grim.
“When you look around here, there’s not a whole lot of jobs here other than the water business. And when that’s gone, we’re gone,” said Eastern Shore waterman, Bob Whaples.
It’s been troubled waters for eastern shore watermen as uncertainties grow amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re just worried about what the markets are going to do,” said Whaples.
Ever since restaurants and bars in Maryland were limited to offering carryout and delivery options only, watermen say the demand for seafood isn’t what it used to be. And with crabbing season starting next week, concerns for how they’ll make ends meet are bigger than ever before.
“The buyers are telling us no guarantees, we’ll go as long as we can go, but once the markets get flooded we’ll be sitting home like we did with the oyster season. I’m afraid what we’re going to see is we’re going to have plenty of crabs and no place to put them,” said Whaples.
And watermen tell 47ABC it isn’t just the watermen that are going to suffer.
“In Dorchester County, we have the largest number of crab picking houses in the state and I’m afraid that if this goes on too long, and they can’t keep their head above water, once they go under, they won’t come back. That’s going to hurt us long term for years, and years, and years. That’s what we’re really afraid of,” said Whaples.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“When we’re gone, your seafood is going to be gone. And even after it comes back, once these watermen are gone, they’re not going to come back. Then you’ll have to import all of your seafood which means higher prices and that’s not good for anybody,” said Whaples.
And while it’s too early to tell how much of a hit these local watermen may take during this upcoming crabbing season, they say all they can do is be positive, and hope for the best.