Dear Mr. Franchot: It has been reported that at a recent Board of Public Works meeting you intend to “redo” Maryland’s commercial fisheries.
Are you campaigning for select groups including ShoreRivers, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Coastal Conservation Association? None of whom have any vested interest in how their actions threaten watermen, their families, communities and supporting businesses.
Here are a few questions you should get answers for first. But, you, not your staff need to answer these questions. Your answers should be from talking with watermen. Not just organizational heads.
How would you protect and defend Maryland’s rockfish industry from out-of-state unfair market practices?
For example: Would you put a stop or a limit to New England seafood dealers flooding Maryland markets with fish in excess of the 32-inch state slot size while denying access to their markets with 32-inch Maryland fish?
How would you protect Maryland’s rockfish from discard mortality abuses by sports and charter fishermen?
How would you make recreational fishing more responsible?
Would you put a stop to “fillet and release”? This is a way they can catch more fish than the two each they can legally keep and then come to the dock with their two legal fish per person and a cooler of fillets.
Sport fishermen cannot legally sell their fish. They feed just those in their circle, not like watermen who feed millions of people while doing so in an already tightly regulated fishery.
Have you heard that just one “scientist” in the Department of Natural Resources has personally ruined the out-of-state live catfish market for Maryland watermen? Ask the department for an explanation.
Do you know that one Virginia seafood dealer nearly dominates Maryland oyster markets?
Why not step up to the plate and have a state-run oyster shucking house that would buy and market only Maryland oysters? For funding you can look at how the state Department of Agriculture subsidizes aquaculture and farmers.
How well are the mega-million-dollar CBF, ShoreRivers, Army Corps of Engineers and DNR sanctuaries doing? Why not ask the DNR how sanctuaries can be actively managed to enhance Mother Nature’s spat sets, benefit the Bay and its tributaries and help the public fishery?
Ask ShoreRivers why it refuses to believe DNR already has a thorough system of clam industry regulations? Why is it so focused on denying clammers the right to make a fair and legal living while protecting subaquatic vegetation?
One last question for you. Why is it that CBF, CCA and ShoreRivers consistently lobby for oyster farming to the detriment of the public fishery? Aquaculture has a place within the oyster industry. It is not the ascendant industry.
Your posturing statement about redoing the Maryland commercial fishery threatens the very people you and the state of Maryland depend on for so many reasons.
Leave the fisheries alone and get to the root of the Bay’s issues by going after the real threats, not the watermen, a lazy target of choice.
If you let the CBF, CCA and ShoreRivers have their way with you, Maryland will lose its commercial rock fishery to out-of-state dealers and sports fishermen whose only interest is conserving fish for themselves.
If you do not protect other Maryland commercial fisheries like catfish from unproven scientific concerns or oysters from out-of-state market practices, then you might just as well let ShoreRivers, CBF, CCA, “protect” the Bay by destroying the commercial fisheries.
Instead of restructuring Maryland commercial fisheries you should step up to the plate and protect these important revenue makers.
Marc Castelli writes from Chestertown. “The View From the Washboards” aims to offer a waterman’s opinion on today’s issues.