I just finished reading an article in a local publication that went as far to name various fishing communities such as "Tangier Island, Smith Island, Crisfield, Cambridge, St. Michaels, Oxford, Kent Island, Rock Hall and others in Bay Country" as being in " the middle of a poaching epidemic of unreal proportions."
The article goes on to describe this problem as being linked to illegal drug use. While some of what the author describes may be true to a much lesser extent, I have grown angered and frustrated by some, but not all, of these so-called journalists leaving the general public with such a negative impression of the watermen community.
I will be the first to admit that yes, we share some of the same problems other communities, other industries and other professions, but don't judge us as a group because of the actions of a few. The overwhelming majority of all commercial fishermen do not condone any form of illegal fishing activity and especially not the use of illegal drugs. As a whole, we are hardworking, God-fearing Christians who still say the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the national anthem and are not afraid to use the words, "one nation under God," at most all of our public functions. We still embrace traditional values and are patriots of our country.
For the most part, we are family men and women who take pride in our occupation, honor its traditions and cherish our heritage. We care as much or more about the health of the Chesapeake Bay than anyone else and want to see this treasure flourish through eternity for all to enjoy. We want our children to be brought up thinking that their parents were part of an honorable profession and to be proud of what they did for a living and not to be depicted or remembered as thieves or drug users. Why doesn't someone write a good article about our watermen sometime? Why doesn't one of these so-called journalists write an article about how you will never find another group of individuals, despite their own differences, give one another the shirt off their backs, money out of their pockets or food from their tables to help someone in need?
That is why that I am proud to be part of, honored to represent, and humbled by the friendship of, our commercial watermen. Remember, we have feelings, too. Enough is enough.
Gibby Dean, Hurlock
The writer is president of the Chesapeake Bay Commercial Fishermen's Association.