Original Article by Camila Fernandez | February 25, 2020 (Click Here to Read)
CAMBRIDGE, Md. – “The waterman is willing to work with anybody on any issues, but we gotta get help from the other side and it’s not there,” said Bob Whaples, a local waterman.
Watermen from across the Eastern Shore are raising concerns after Maryland legislators introduced certain bills they say would put them out of business such as Senate Bill 948.
Senate Bill 948 would require watermen to have paid for an unlimited tidal fish license on or before September 1, 2019, to harvest oysters or be put permanently out of the business unless they are to purchase a license from another waterman.
It is a move watermen tell us they refuse to see move forward.
“We’re against taking a man’s license that’s had it for 40 or 50 years and just because he didn’t use them, still paying the fee to obtain the license because he didn’t use them for the last three years, he’s out,” said Whaples.
“That’s not, I don’t even believe that’s constitutional,” said Whaples.
But the sponsor of this bill Senator Paul Pinsky tells us it is one way to get a better grip of how many oyster licenses are out there.
“I’d like the state to have a clear number of oyster licenses, so we could better manage the fishery and also ensure that the people who are left could actually be successful in oystering,” said Pinsky.
Another major bill is the Aquatic Habitat Protection Act, which would prohibit a person from catching soft-shell clams with a hydraulic clam dredge or any other gear except hand-held tools like shovels within 150 feet of a Submerged Aquatic Vegetation protection zone.
“Unfortunately, I’ve seen some information where not everyone has stayed within the boundaries and some of the SAVs have been destroyed,” said Pinsky.
So, legislators say they hope to limit destruction to the underwater vegetation and that they need to take action moving forward.
But it is a move watermen say will ultimately put them out of business.
“It’s going to push the clammers right out of business,” said Whaples, “It’s going to push them out there in deep water where they can’t work.”
47ABC reached out to Senator Mary Beth Carozza and Senator Addie Eckardt who tell us they are against the oyster licensing bill.
Watermen also tell us that although they are frustrated with certain bills, they will continue to push forward so that their business can thrive.