Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chesapeake Watermen Being Put in a Museum

The Calvert Marine Museum opens a traveling photography exhibit entitled “Endangered Species: Watermen of the Chesapeake” beginning September 14 in the Mezzanine gallery. Produced by the Mariner’s Museum, this exhibition takes visitors on a rare photographic journey to explore the proud heritage and determination of watermen and women of the Chesapeake Bay. The story is told through inspiring black and white portraiture of Norfolk photographer Glen McClure. Join Glen McClure for a public lecture about the exhibit at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, September 14. The exhibit is on display through the end of December 2012.

“Endangered Species: Watermen of the Chesapeake” focuses on the pictorial stories of the hardworking men and women whose livelihood is jeopardized by the diminishing stocks of oysters, blue crabs, and fish in the bay. As the fisheries teeter on the verge of collapse, so does this traditional way of life, followed by generations of watermen and their families that may soon disappear. In addition to McClure’s photos, a selection of original photographs from the Museum’s archival collection by A. Aubrey Bodine, one of the finest pictorialists of the 20th century will be on display. As a photojournalist for the Baltimore Sun, Bodine traveled the Baltimore area and Chesapeake Bay region learning about it in every tide, wind, weather and season. His remarkable documentary pictures were seen in the Sunday Sun, in books, magazines, calendars, and murals.
I know I seem pretty negative about Chesapeake Bay watermen in previous posts, and I would like to temper those remarks.  I have known and respected members of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay commercial fishing community ever since I moved to Maryland.  It's a hard life, and by and large they are a hard working group of men. 

In fact, the problems with commercial fishing by and large stem from the fact that they are hard working.  When the fishing gets hard, they work harder, longer hours and more gear.  That is precisely the problem, when the yield of fish at a given effort level starts to decline, it's time to stop fishing as hard, and allow the stock to reproduce.  Unfortunately, personal economics and the "Tragedy of the Commons" dictates that the instinct is to try harder.

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