Last Sunday in Tilghman Island, we celebrated the blessing of the fleet, a major event for friends and families of the watermen who fish on our shores. The day started with an early morning meeting of the Talbot Watermen Association, which is understandable. Contrary to most of us recovering our activities, watermen have to struggle — permanently — with laws, regulations, and new restrictions. It’s one of the crucial contradictions on the Eastern Shore: we all appreciate the Bay and want to protect it, and we are thankful to the hard-working people who bring us crabs, oysters, and fish, but we were not able to find a common ground between watermen’s working needs and the protection of our creeks.
Ironically, we proudly proclaim watermen’s importance in shaping the Eastern Shore’s identity. Still, we now seem to turn our back to them, as if we were powerless in helping them assure their future. Worse, at some meetings, they are pictured as enemies of the Bay. Do we really believe this? No question that we all admire the progress of aquaculture technology, but can we envision dawn in our creeks without the slow pacing sailing of crabbing boats and the men and women who work on them?
Sunday, I witnessed the watermen community expressing gratitude for the protection received during tumultuous times and praying for all fleets’ blessing — including recreational boats. While watching, I dared to think if it would not be possible for all of us who love and live around the Bay to find solutions simultaneously enabling our creeks’ protection and dignified conditions for the brave watermen to make their ends meet.