Tag Archives: WATERMEN

trotline crabbing in broad creek.

crabbing in september.


johnny gowe scoops up a crab from his trotline in broad creek — neavitt, md.

at the end of september i ventured out into broad creek to photograph the local watermen working their trotlines — fall crabbing! i spent most of the morning aboard dreamer with captain johnny gowe. once again i was so impressed by the dedication of the watermen, and loved watching them scoop up the blue crabs and fill their bushels!

enjoy!

* * * * *

…more from my on-going watermen project…

oyster recovery partnership :: ORP project – le compte bay, choptank river.

environmental matters committee :: SB 342 :: eastern shore watermen rally in support of senate bill 342.

choptank to the railway :: neavitt to tilghman aboard the dreamer.

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crabbing in september.


johnny gowe scoops up a crab from his trotline in broad creek — neavitt, md.

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oyster recovery partnership.

ORP project :: le compte bay, choptank river.


captain david leonard uses a power dredge to reclaim silt covered oyster shells.

every spring for the last few years maryland watermen have joined forces with the maryland department of natural resources (DNR) to rehabilitate the oyster beds throughout the chesapeake bay. oyster shell rehabilitation is a project that involves reclaiming silt-covered oyster shell from specifically targeted oyster reefs using power dredges.

established by the oyster recovery partnership (ORP), this project aims to restore oyster habitats through a “dredge and release” program – as the dredge drags along the bottom it breaks up oyster clusters, giving them more room to grow. it also jostles the shells and creates clean surfaces for the oyster spat to attach and develop.

ORP collaborates with management agencies, including DNR, NOAA, and the army corps of engineers, as well as individual experts and scientists to develop ways to increase oyster hatchery production across the region. in recent years ORP has enlisted maryland watermen, who they feel “have the necessary boats, equipment and knowledge of the bay to bring local experience and expertise to our projects.”

ironically, these watermen have been facing increased scrutiny for the aforementioned power dredging – blamed by many of the same experts for “destroying oyster beds.” when in fact, programs like ORP have proven that power dredging are good for the oyster beds and can possibly do more to restore oyster populations than sanctuaries. according to senator colburn “dredging works the bay bottom which in turn prevents oysters from being silted over which suffocates and kills them,” additionally, bunky chance, president of the talbot county watermen’s association confirms that “every place we have used this equipment, they’re [oysters] coming back. every place we’re not, they’re barren.”

chance also addressed recent legislation, such as the oyster restoration and aquaculture development plan which encourages private oyster cultivation and would arguably put the watermen out of business, in a piece that recently appeared in the baltimore sunoverfishing not to blame for oyster woes. he argues that “watermen have been doing aquaculture on their leased bottoms with little or no success for many years” and that “watermen are not against sanctuaries, aquaculture or what is being referred to as the “poachers” bill….What they are against is how the Department of Natural Resources has handled this new plan.”

the watermen simply want to continue working on the water and providing for their families. more than anyone they understand the problems facing the bay and agree that something must be done to help restore the oyster and crab populations. they have consistently demonstrated their adaptability and respect through cooperation with laws and regulations which pose strict limits on their season and catches. furthermore, by working with the DNR and ORP they have proven that their methods are non-destructive and, if given time, may prove to restore the oyster population after all.

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on the last day of the ORP’s oyster shell rehabilitation project i arrived at the oxford dock just after 5am and climbed aboard the workboat amy lynn. i introduced myself to captain david leonard and his son brian on the 45-minute trip along the choptank river to le compte bay where we would spend the day dredging along with dozens of other boats. for the next 8 hours i watched as david lowered the massive power dredge onto the bottom and retrieved countless heaps of oyster shells, rocks, mud, crabs, and occasional rubbish. he and brian would pour over each load, sifting through and tossing everything back overboard, returning it to the bottom. the project aims to break up oyster clusters and release the shells from heavy mud and silt so that spat can easy attach and grow. david noted that there were a good amount of oysters and felt the area would be good for harvest, if in fact the water was right for spat. recently the salinity has decreased in many areas, rendering the water too fresh for oysters to flourish. i appreciated how david shared his opinions and experiences over his life-long career as a watermen. i spent the entire day enthralled with the work and stories of this seasoned waterman – feeling a surge of anticipation each time he retrieved the dredge and even more passionate about the plight of this endangered trade.

i can’t thank the captain enough for taking me aboard amy lynn – it was a phenonmenal experience and i can’t wait to get back out on the water…next up, crabbing!

enjoy!

*  *  *  *  *

…more from my on-going watermen project…

choptank to the railway :: neavitt to tilghman aboard the dreamer.

environmental matters committee :: SB 342 :: eastern shore watermen rally in support of senate bill 342.

oyster recovery partnership :: ORP project – le compte bay, choptank river.

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Filed under documentary, eastern shore, photography, st michaels, watermen

choptank to the railway.

neavitt to tilghman aboard the dreamer.


day break on dreamer with captain johnny.

a few weeks ago i hit the waters of the bay for the first time aboard the workboat dreamer. captain johnny gowe guided us along the choptank river from the neavitt dock to the tilghman railway, where he was headed to work on his boat. during the week or so following oyster season, workboats fill the marina ready to be inspected, painted, repaired, and cleaned up before they start crabbing. ideally, the boats leave the water only once a year – their sturdy fiberglass hulls are able to weather the wicked winter ice that so easily damages the older, wooden boats.

en route to the marina railway we passed watermen getting a jump on the crabbing season which started earlier this month. i was impressed watching them steadily work the trotlines, catching blue crabs one at a time, swiftly flipping them from the net into the basket. in stark contrast, the clam boat looked far more complicated – with a conveyor belt system for retrieving and sorting the little razor clams that make excellent bait for crabbing.

no matter what they are catching – oysters, crabs, clams – watermen generally work alone, spending long, solitary days on the water and i loved this brief glimpse into their world.

enjoy!

*  *  *  *  *

…more from my on-going watermen project…

oyster recovery partnership :: ORP project – le compte bay, choptank river.

environmental matters committee :: SB 342 :: eastern shore watermen rally in support of senate bill 342.

choptank to the railway :: neavitt to tilghman aboard the dreamer.

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Filed under documentary, eastern shore, photography, st michaels

clamoring for clams.

your personal fisherman.

this weekend st. michael’s celebrated their annual winefest – with two days of food, wine, music and celebration throughout town. the talbot county watermen’s association had a tent featuring soft-shell clams with phenomenal cooking demonstrations and tastings all afternoon. the amazing carol bean organized the event and local artist marc castelli leant his talents to the the flyer which featured a watermen’s workboat and the slogan caught by “your personal fisherman.” i stopped by just in time to catch the fabulous barbara helish, chef + owner of bella luna restaurant, as she prepared the clams in a chipotle garlic tomato butter extravaganza – to die for! earlier in the day philip bernot, wine director at wishing well liquor, served much-raved about tempura rockfish bites – delish!

enjoy!

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Filed under eastern shore, event, photography

environmental matters committee :: SB 342

eastern shore watermen rally in support of senate bill 342.


maryland watermen :: annapolis, md.

my first encounter with the watermen of the eastern shore was far more exciting than i could have imagined. last week, the night before i was scheduled to go oystering with one of the work boats, bunky chance – president of the talbot county watermen’s association – called to tell me that due to impending oyster legislation a group of watermen were heading instead to the state capital in support of senate bill 342. sb342 (natural resources :: oysters :: hearing for poaching and designation of sanctuaries) had just passed unanimously in the senate 44 – 0. the bill would establish more severe penalties for oyster poachers along with an amendment from sen. richard colburn to delay the designation of new oyster sanctuaries by the department of natural resources (DNR) – a compromise to the current plan which would give DNR more time to draw new lines and (more importantly) provide the watermen with another harvest season.

nearly 100 maryland watermen converged in downtown annapolis that wednesday morning, april 7th, filling the harbor with more workboats than the city has seen in decades. from the waterfront the men marched to the state building with signs that spoke silently to their point – we are watermen. we love our job. we love the bay. they came to the capital – leaving their boats and a day’s pay – to show solidarity and support for a bill that would give them a voice in the grand debate over oyster regulations. for the last few months they’ve watched as legislators dictate their future and taints their reputation among the greater community. it’s disheartening and unjust that these watermen who used to be looked at with great respect are being pegged as resource exploiters, when it is simply not true.

one of my main motivations behind coming to st michael’s was to learn about the heritage and culture of the bay’s watermen community. the watermen of the eastern shore, and talbot county in particular, have my utmost respect and admiration for the honest, hard work that they do everyday on the waters of the chesapeake bay. i couldn’t imagine anything more fascinating than documenting a way of life that has been preserved and executed with passion and respect for decades and among countless generations. oystering and crabbing on the chesapeake is more than just a job for these men, it’s part of their soul. everything they know they learned from the generation before them, and they pass that knowledge on to their sons. this is a fiercely independent, proud, and concerned group, that wants nothing more than to see this way of life preserved.

the problems of the chesapeake bay are numerous, and the causes are varied and highly disputed. once teeming with marine life, the high levels of pollution, disease among the oysters, variation in water salinity, and poaching have led to decreased harvests across the board. as scientists continue to research solutions and the DNR imposes regulations, the situation has gone from bad to worse, and no one has suffered more than the watermen.

for the next few weeks i will be working with the talbot county watermen’s association to learn about the current state of the industry and their plight over the last few years. as a personal project, i want to document the many facets of life in this community and educate myself as much as possible on the history and waters of the bay. i aim to champion the watermen who respect and care for the bay and challenge the widespread propaganda by the DNR and other “well-intentioned” organizations that manipulate data to promote an agenda which has clearly served no one.

seated in the environmental matters committee courtroom, i was proud to be among the group of slightly charged watermen – dressed in jeans and tanned from the sun, they were in stark contrast to the politicians in dark suits and DNR officers in starched uniforms. the watermen’s presence was profound, and my respect grew for this group of men who were compelled to attend this non-testimony hearing. the speaker briefly acknowledged their attendance, and the proceedings began. i listened closely that afternoon, and was appalled by the dismissive attitude of the house on the bill, save for a few honorable delegates. arguing against the amendment, sen. brian frosh dismissed the watermen, citing that all hunter/gatherer societies are facing extinction and are “not the way of the future.” in my opinion, anyone that so easily disregards the way of life of an entire culture and spurns their struggle is incredibly ignorant and close minded.

it has been my privilege to travel the world witnessing varied and magnificent ways of life – ancient cultures minimally disturbed by modern society. at present, i am honored to have the opportunity to witness such culture in my own country – to document and learn from the eastern shore watermen. for me there is nothing more important and relevant to be photographing right now than this. i am incredibly excited, and i only hope that i am not, as many have warned, witnessing the true end of an era.


the maryland state seal features a farmer and a waterman.

*  *  *  *  *

…more from my on-going watermen project…

choptank to the railway :: neavitt to tilghman aboard the dreamer.

oyster recovery partnership :: ORP project – le compte bay, choptank river.

environmental matters committee :: SB 342 :: eastern shore watermen rally in support of senate bill 342.

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oystering.


oyster recovery partnership :: le compte bay, choptank river.

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