March 6, 2011

Are Chesapeake watermen an endangered species?

Will the Pruitts, Crocketts and Parkers--and a slew of other 3rd or 4th generation watermen--stop working the waters of the Chesapeake Bay for oysters and crabs any time soon?

One enterprising photographer, Glen MClure, sure makes that unsettling possibility quite real. His black and white photo exhibit of Chesapeake watermen, Endangered Species: Watermen of the Chesapeake , in the Virginia Mariners Museum until May 2, 2011 is mesmerizing. I saw it a month ago and the photos still haunt me. I've met a few of these hardworking watermen while sailing the bay over the last 8 years. One trip to Tangier Island last summer was especially poignant. We got to meet the "famous" and colorful Parks Marina owner, Milton Parks, 80+ and still working hard to make visiting boaters feel welcome.

Cory Nealon's Daily Press article, "Last buyboat a relic of bygone Bay era," about the last buyboat hauling oysters from Virginia's Tangier Island to nearby Reedville gave me reason to sigh as well.

Both of these put faces on those confronting the continuing assault on the Chesapeake Bay's quality. Perhaps members of Congress should visit the Mariners Museum exhibit before they continue their effforts to end the EPA's enforcement funds. Tangier Island folks have some unique sayings that really make sense. We really do need to "make a hurry" (hurry up) to clean up these "hucky" (really dirty) waters soon.