Throughout the semester we have heard opinion after opinion of how to save the oyster population. At the end of the day everyone wants to save the oysters, yet watermen, environmental groups, the government and citizens of waterfront communities disagree on how it should be done. This issue has begun a hateful blame game, creating an environmental in which little gets accomplished.
Many watermen feel that they have been oystering for generations, their entire lives revolving around this harvest. They feel that the outside people getting involved in this issue do not have the lifelong first hand experience and passion that has been passed down to them for centuries. Many of them feel that dredging is the perfect solution, fluffing the bottom and keeping the oysters from being suffocated by sediment. They have seen the positive results of this action in many areas and feel that this is the best way to save the oysters. Along with many other environmental regulations, they feel that not being able to harvest specific areas is instead leading to those oysters dying because they are becoming covered in sediment.
Environmental groups and certain sections of the government point the finger back at these watermen. They feel that they have millions of dollars worth of research and science behind the regulations they enact that the watermen just don’t understand. They also feel that this is these men’s professions, and they will take as many oysters out of the Bay as possible before someone else does or they die off. This tragedy of the commons situation lead these groups to not trust that the watermen have the oysters’ best interest in mind and therefore need to be regulated.
Another involved party that at times disagrees are the citizens and tourists of these working waterfront communities. While the families who have lived in the area for generations understand the way of life, the ‘come here’ population push back. Many move to these communities for the slow, close-knit way of life, romanticized by the boats and watermen culture. While they love this part they also want the big beautiful homes, a variety of stores and other forms of entertainment that force development. It doesn’t matter to some of them if their pollution and development further degrades the Bay as long as it looks clean and doesn’t ruin their picturesque views. Many point their finger at the Susquehanna and the Conowingo, arguing that nothing they do will make a change until that area is cleaned up. But for all of their faults, at times these tourists and ‘come here’ citizens can save these towns. Their spur of economy and the population can at times revitalize a town slowly disappearing as lack of work forces the citizens to leave.
So what is the answer to saving the oysters? Who is right in this situation? I don’t think there is one answer to this question or one group who is correct. The answer lies somewhere in between but has yet to be fully unraveled. The key is that each group has a seat at the table, listening to the other points of view. Until the government can put itself in the watermen’s shoes and visa versa nothing will be accomplished. We forget we have a common goal and all everyone wants is the save the oysters and the Chesapeake Bay.