MD Blue Crab Design Team Exhibits at Recent Watermen Expo, Shares Plans for Pilot Accountability System

Every year, the Maryland Watermen’s Association hosts a commercial fishermen and aquaculture trade expo attracting hundreds of fishermen and watermen from along the east coast. This year’s recent 38th annual Expo in Ocean City, MD included an exhibit from the Maryland Blue Crab Design Team.  The Design Team, an industry-led task force EDF helped organize, participated in the expo for the opportunity to keep the larger watermen community informed and gain feedback on the collective process to develop long-term solutions for Maryland’s blue crab industry.

Twenty-four Design Team members spoke with over 100 interested watermen and other stakeholders about the Design Team’s vision and goals.  Most recently the Team has been developing a pilot program to test electronic reporting technologies to advance watermen accountability in the fishery and promote the health of the blue crab resource and the businesses that depend on it.  This pilot aims to improve the timing and accuracy of harvest data to fisheries managers. It will mark a major step forward in building a more sustainable fishery leading to a more viable future for the blue crab industry.  The pilot project is expected to be up and running by midyear. Read More »

Posted in Mid-Atlantic / Comments are closed

Maryland Waterman Turns Vision into Opportunity for Chesapeake Fishing Communities

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 »

Posted in Mid-Atlantic / Tagged , | Read 1 Response

Maryland Watermen Keep Open Mind Towards Future and Catch Shares

Kate Culzoni speaks to watermen at the East Coast Commercial Fishermen's & Aquaculture Trade Exposition in Ocean City, Maryland.

Kate Culzoni speaks to watermen at the East Coast Commercial Fishermen's & Aquaculture Trade Exposition in Ocean City, Maryland.

Over a half a foot of snow couldn’t keep watermen away from the East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s & Aquaculture Trade Exposition in Ocean City, Maryland this past weekend.  The state’s biggest fishing association, the Maryland Watermen’s Association, organized a weekend full of events and seminars highlighting issues on watermen’s minds.  Environmental Defense Fund had the honor of participating in this event by organizing a seminar called “Co-Managing the Future of Your Fishery – Experiences and Lessons from Fishermen across the Country.” 

To bring some context to the subject, we brought in fishermen from around the nation including the President and Treasurer of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, David Krebs and Buddy Guindon.  We also tapped the expertise of Alaska halibut fisherman, Mark Lundsten and New England fisherman and catch shares expert, Dick Allen.  These fishermen led a panel discussion on their experiences and lessons going from traditional fisheries management systems to catch shares management.   

Gulf fishermen and Maryland watermen talk at the East Coast Commercial Fishermen's & Aquaculture Trade Exposition in Ocean City, Maryland.

Gulf fishermen and Maryland watermen talk at the East Coast Commercial Fishermen's & Aquaculture Trade Exposition in Ocean City, Maryland.

The President of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, Larry Simns, opened the session requesting something from the 50 or so watermen in the audience.  “Whether you are for or against catch shares, we all need to keep an open mind and see how at least parts of this system can help the future of our fisheries,” Simns stated. 

Maryland watermen asked many questions and raised concerns about catch shares but repeatedly said they were maintaining an open mind about the solutions that catch shares can offer to fisheries.

Posted in Mid-Atlantic / Tagged , | Read 2 Responses

Local Seafood is Key to Florida Keys Culture

Kate Culzoni with a spiny lobster at the Florida Keys Seafood FestivalA few weeks ago, I attended the 5th Annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival in Key West where I learned what Florida Keys culture is all about – seafood, sun and fun. As I enjoyed the fresh lobster tails and crab claws, I was able to speak with the actual commercial fishermen who catch Caribbean spiny lobster, stone crab and a variety of sumptuous reef fish. 

Fish houses, which act as fish buyers, retail markets and restaurants, are often a lifeline for fishermen needing financial assistance and are the heart of the fishing industry in the region. I used some of my time touring the operations and observing how fish from the nearby reefs become delicious seafood fare in restaurants. 

Key West has a vibrant and diverse culture. Only 90 miles from Havana, the Cuban influence can be seen everywhere.  As I walked the historic docks, I practiced my Spanish with Cuban American fishermen. “A donde se van a pescar?”

Talking with fisheries managers, academics and state of Florida researchers also educated me on the complexity of fisheries and some of the challenges facing the living marine resources in the Florida Keys. Of particular interest to me was the spiny lobster fishery, which is unique because spiny lobster’s tail meat is the only commercially valuable part, unlike the cold water American lobster that has meat-filled claws and tails.

Spiny lobster is valuable to the Keys’ culture and national economy, however, research reveals some discontent with the current management system. Growing concerns over proposed new regulations, the high cost of doing business, and illegal poaching and black markets have some commercial fishermen wondering how they can even survive in the spiny lobster fishery.

After listening to fishermen’s stories and ideas at the Seafood Festival, which is sponsored by the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, I have a much better understanding of the adverse impacts of the spiny lobster management system. This year I’ll be spending more time researching and analyzing this fishery and working closely with the fishermen on potential management improvements. I’ll keep EDFish readers abreast of my findings.

Posted in Uncategorized / Comments are closed