Splinter Group Wants to Form Own Waterman’s Association

Weary of ongoing crab and oyster regulations, a group of watermen say it is time to start a regional watermen’s association. “We don’t feel like we’re represented very well,” said Jody Tull, of Marion Station, about the work now done on their behalf by the Maryland Watermen’s Association, based in Queen Anne’s County. Tull is among those who want to start an association with a sharpened focus on serving Mid-Shore and Lower Shore counties.

Chief among their concerns is Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s plan for expanding oyster sanctuaries. The governor intends to expand the state’s aquaculture industry, and in doing so he will open more than 95,000 acres of natural oyster bars up to aquaculture investors. Environmentalists and scientists have cheered the plan, saying it will help revive oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay. Many critics, including Maryland Watermen’s Association President Larry Simns, say the plan will endanger the livelihoods of many watermen.

Delegate Page Elmore plans on introducing a watermen-minded bill in the House of Delegates. The bill would extend a law, which expired December 31, that allows watermen to use “devil divers,” which are weights on oyster dredges. He says the weights play a critical role in the success of power dredges on the waterway’s bottom. Although the Maryland’s Watermen’s Association has a history of fighting against industry regulations, Tull said the association was not doing enough.