The first decade of the twenty-first century saw several years with the lowest blue crab populations and harvest levels ever recorded. By 2008 fishery managers worried they might witness the crash of the blue crab stock, the most valuable and most fished of all the East Coast’s fisheries. In response to the numbers, new, tight restrictions were placed on the fishery in hopes the population would grow. In addition, Congress declared a fishery disaster, making $15 million available for restoration measures, and to support the fishermen.
A portion of that money went to an innovative training program, The Waterman’s Heritage Tourism Training Program, developed by a group of Chesapeake non-profit organizations. The partnership was initiated and organized by the Chesapeake Conservancy, included the Coastal Heritage Alliance, the Maryland Watermen’s Association, and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
Since its inception, the training program has graduated more than 100 watermen and provided them insights and skills in how to conduct heritage tours. The training isn’t meant to take the watermen off the water, but to give them skills they can use to supplement their incomes with a related new business.
This website supports the graduates of that program with a marketing outlet. Here you can find on the water and on land tours that will inform you about the life of the waterman, their communities, and the Chesapeake’s history. You can even locate speakers for events.
And here’s some more good news. The tighter regulations seem to have worked. Blue crab populations have responded, and the catches are up!