While winter around the Chesapeake Bay is known for oysters and striped bass, summertime means blue crabs. If you enjoyed steamed crabs from Maryland this summer, you may have consumed crabs harvested by watermen involved in a ground-breaking test of technology to improve long-term blue crab management.
The Maryland Blue Crab Accountability Pilot program – a collaborative effort among commercial watermen called the Blue Crab Design Team, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and other partners – was designed to test electronic daily harvest reporting in order to gather more accurate and timely harvest information. From mid-July through the end of Maryland’s commercial crabbing season in mid-November, some 50 commercial crabbers, ranging in age from 25 – 75, tested the use of hand-held technologies like cell phones, smartphones and tablets, to report blue crab harvest daily.
Sustainable fisheries management requires sound science and accurate harvest and effort information. Current reporting relies on monthly paper reports and manual data entry that can take months to process. Daily electronic harvest reporting can improve the accuracy of harvest data, and result in real-time harvest information for in-season management decision-making. Read More »
Johnny Shockley, business partners and member of the Dorchester County, MD Chamber of Commerce.
The Chesapeake commercial fishing community is full of practical, hard-working businessmen and women who overcome weather, regulatory challenges, and market obstacles every day. Some go even further to combine their grit and drive with innovation and vision to create a business that leverages the allure of Chesapeake seafood and new market opportunities. Johnny Shockley, a career waterman from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, is doing just that.
Johnny began oystering with his dad and grandfather at the age of 12. For the last 35 years, he has worked on the water making his living by harvesting the Chesapeake’s blue crabs, fish and oysters. Recognizing the growing challenges to his industry and family heritage, Johnny realized that he needed to “think outside of the box” to create new business opportunities for his family.
After over three years of hard work and planning, Johnny and his business partner, Ricky Fitzugh, officially launched Hooper’s Island Oyster Aquaculture, Inc., home of Chesapeake Gold Oysters. Last year, Hooper’s Island Oyster Aquaculture, Inc. bought 1 million oyster larvae, grew them to market size over the past 12 months and is now selling the seafood delicacy throughout the Washington, DC area. This year, they expanded to four million more larvae. Read More »
Here’s something you don’t hear about every day: good news about the Chesapeake Bay. The Washington Post is reporting that an artificial reef in a tributary is teeming with new life. The reef is nothing more complex than a large pile of shells. Historically reefs like that were so numerous they were a hazard for ships. So many oysters lived in the Chesapeake that they filtered all the water in the bay every few days.
The demise of the Chesapeake oyster came around the turn of the last century through a manic and violent harvest that reduced the population to just one percent of historic abundance in less than a century. As many as 15 million oysters were harvested annually in the late 1800's, compared to 100,000 or less today.
Scores of people died in the mad pursuit of oysters. Maryland was forced to establish the Oyster Police to protect its oystermen against their counterparts from Virginia. Violent conflicts between watermen from the two states became so common that this era is now known as the Oyster Wars.