Friday, January 25, 2013

O'Malley Appoints Waterman 'Admiral of the Chespeake'

Maryland Watermen’s Association founder celebrates 40 years of service

Governor Martin O’Malley has designated Larry Simns Admiral of the Chesapeake for his work as the chief advocate for Maryland’s watermen and their communities, and for his role in promoting changes to better ensure the sustainability of commercial fishing in the State. Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin presented the award to Simns’ family, on January 18 at the 39th East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s and Aquaculture Trade Exposition in Ocean City.

“I want to congratulate Larry for his outstanding leadership and the Maryland Watermen’s Association on their 40-year anniversary,” said Governor O’Malley. “Larry has served as the voice of the men and women who work tirelessly to ensure that our local restaurants, markets and citizens have consistent and quality local seafood. He has been vital to the livelihood of our State’s watermen and we congratulate him for helping to promote responsible fishing practices and understanding the need for a balanced fishery that supports both the industry and our natural world.”

Simns, president and founder of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, has worked as a commercial waterman and charter boat operator for more than 60 years. He founded the Association in 1973, serving as president and laboring on behalf of Maryland watermen who make their living by their catch. A fourth generation waterman from Rock Hall, Simns’ lifelong love of the Chesapeake and working on the water began at the age of six, when he became employed by his great-grandfather, Captain Willy Stevens, to row the boat while Captain Willy ran his trot line.
It may seem sometimes that I hate commercial fishermen.  It's not true; as they say "Some of my best friends are" ... commercial fishermen.  However, speaking as a dedicated sports fisherman, there's just no doubt that we are in competition with commercial fishermen for a limited resource, and the commercial guys get a leg up in the times they are allowed to keep fish, and the type of gear they are allowed to use.

But my beef with coms is not that they get to fish with much more efficient gear; that's OK to a point, there are many less of them; it's that they are way too good at what they do, and work too hard.  The history of fisheries is replete with stories of commercial fisherman discovering a new population of fish to market, and simply fishing it into oblivion.  When it gets harder to catch fish, instead of relaxing, and letting a few escape, as simple fisheries models would easily demonstrate, they work harder, and invent better gear, and finally the fish disappear.  It almost happened with Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass, and it would happen again if it weren't heavily regulated.

Larry Simns has been an effective leader of the commercial fishermen in Maryland.  Although he affects a folksy "oh shucks" demeanor, he has been an effective force for keeping the watermen politically connected.

Congratulations, Larry, and don't let it go to your head.

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