Once a Reporter, Always a Reporter

Three old things I know: Reporters should be as a fly on the wall. Once a reporter, always a reporter. Flies on walls are more attended than political spouses. Thus I blog.

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Name: Viki Volk
Location: St. George Island, Maryland

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Those Damn Watermen

Aren't they ever going to give it up? Those damn watermen, those under-educated, poorly disciplined, oddly spoken pirates, perennially accused of a willingness to take the last oyster (or crab or fish) if given half a chance.
As if to prove themselves just that bad they raise their Shakespearian voices and press their faces much too close and call their accusers bald-faced liars.
The vitriol suggests Shakespeare again, suggests they doth protest too much.
I walk a thin line here – writing about watermen. A legitimate newspaper wouldn’t let me do it. But I’m compelled, whenever I hear drums beating for those damn watermen again, when I hear government officials calling for restraint and scientists demanding more laws to prevent those pirates from taking the last living oyster of the Chesapeake. I'm compelled when the Shakespearian oratory starts up in my kitchen.
Each time officialdom drums up animosity against the watermen more empty Save the Bay promises follow and then some more money will be piddled away in yet another phony solution. At least that’s how the last 25 years have gone.
It is similar when the focus shifts to the farmer and that profession is pilloried in the name of the Chesapeake Bay. Or in the name of tobacco, as the case may be. Except, of course, the federal and state governments bought the tobacco farmers out.
Eh, eh, eh, not to go there, I walk a thin line.
Still, regardless of my biases, it seems odd to blame the aging and disappearing watermen for the death and breeding failures of the resource. I don't mean to be stupid. I get the tipping point theory; more watermen, more clever capturing devices, etc. etc. I get that they’re not angels. Trust me, I get that. I know they are pirates. I am bias. I wouldn't accuse them of taking the last oyster. I won’t have to. That oyster will be dead long before a waterman reaches it.
But putting all of that aside, if harvesting the Chesapeake Bay is the reason the life in the bay is diminishing, how come there aren't any more toad fish left? Why won’t the grasses grow? How come the eroding shoreline is filling with junk weeds?
Maybe the problem isn't actually the watermen. Or maybe their share of the problem is minuscule. Might not even be the watermen plus the farmers together. Maybe even both the watermen and farmers added together aren’t even a statistically significant portion of the problem. Maybe they're nothing but another resource being pilfered away by other mismanagement problems.
Maybe all of us recently arrived at water's edge to live and boat and spew and drain and dribble – those of us with those damn watermen in our view-shed, threatening to take our last oyster, maybe we too doth protest too much.

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