Watermen, anglers pledge to help bay

March 21, 1993|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,Staff Writer

The commercial fisherman and the recreational fisherman sat side by side. That alone was noteworthy.

What was "unprecedented," using one man's term, was why these traditional foes had come together yesterday for a meeting billed as Chesapeake Fishermen's Summit: To join forces in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation organized the summit at the Governor Calvert House, an Annapolis inn next to the State House. Bill Goldsborough, fisheries scientist for the foundation, described the gathering as "unprecedented."

The two groups traditionally butt heads over fishing rights, but they share common ground in wanting more fish in the rivers and bay.

"They have the passion for this," said Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, made up of governors and state legislators from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. "This goes beyond their livelihood. It gets into their personal souls."

Representatives of 16 fishing organizations from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia at the summit signed a "Declaration of Habitat Dependence," pledging to "stand together in the effort to protect and restore aquatic habitat."

Mr. Goldsborough said he hopes the leaders of the groups will now form a coalition to restore and preserve the Chesapeake watershed. He said he also hopes that individual fishermen will become political advocates for a cleaner bay.

"If we can make the bay clean enough," said Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen's Association, "we don't have to fight over who will catch the last fish."

He said his association, comprised of 18 county groups of clammers, crabbers, oystermen and fishermen, survived by "agreeing to disagree." That's what this coalition of diverse fishermen must do as well, he said.

Mr. Simns was the commercial fisherman sitting next to the recreational fisherman, Bob Pride, whose Atlantic Coast Conservation Association of Virginia represents sports fishing groups.

Mr. Simns said watermen are "probably the most hard-headed )) people in the world."

Mr. Pride chimed in: "I will admit watermen can be hard-headed. But sports fishermen can be very uninformed and apathetic. And they can be hard-headed, too."

"You've got to compromise, or you won't survive," Mr. Simns said. told them.

The fishermen presented their declaration to Pennsylvania state Rep. Jeffrey W. Coy, who is chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. He told the group:

"The writing is clearly on the wall. Without restoring the bay's habitat, we cannot restore its bounties. Fish are dependent on clean water. . . . "

The Declaration of Habitat Dependence listed some disturbing statistics about the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Nevertheless, progress has been made in cleaning up the bay. One example is the resurgence of striped bass, or rockfish.

"We've got to do what we are doing now better," said Ms. Swanson, of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. "And we've got to do more."

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