Chesapeake Losing 'Working Waterfront'

Written by budiyanto on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 4:12 PM

The ranks of oystermen in Maryland have long been dwindling. But now the harbors and marinas that once housed their boats are going, too.

Maryland and Virginia have lost dozens of working marinas, oyster-shucking houses, crab-picking places and boat repair shops during the last half-century. Some marina owners sold to developers, unable to make a living from the few remaining oystermen who docked there. Others couldn’t afford to repair damages from ever more severe storms as sea level rose. Still others simply couldn’t afford or didn’t want to spend money on the maintenance, letting the facilities slip into the sea after years of neglect.

Now, a team of federal and state officials as well as watermen, folklorists and boat builders are trying to stem the tide of loss. They are taking stock of the remaining working waterfronts to determine how to preserve them.

“These places have gone through some really difficult times,” said Tom Murray, marine business and coastal development specialist with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “If you show a legitimate concern for all of these businesses, then people are really interested.”
You know, we don't have many blacksmith shops and farriers around anymore either, for much the same reason; the job is outdated, and the service simply isn't needed in the amount that it used to be.  Why not?  Because the oyster population has dwindled to a tiny fraction (estimated to be around 1%) of it's former abundance.  And this loss was due in large part to the actions of previous watermen, mining the resource instead of nurturing it.

If the waterfronts serve a purpose, they will continue to be maintained.  We cannot afford to maintain them just out of sentimentality, hiring a few watermen to go out and play fisherman so that tourists can enjoy spectacle.

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