May 1, 2008
Anthropologist on the Bay
The blue crab industry faces tough times as crab stocks falter and new regulations come online. While world-class research has focused on the biology and ecology of the blue crab, less attention has focused on the crabbers — on the social and human dimensions of a culture that has come to depend on the Bay and especially on the blue crab.
That’s the message from Dr. Michael Paolisso, an anthropologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, who’s studied the culture of watermen on the Bay. Paolisso has analyzed the worldviews or “cultural models” of watermen and compared them to the views of scientists, environmentalists, and managers.
Paolisso was interviewed recently on the radio program Maryland Morning, hosted by Sheilah Kast on WYPR. Kast also interviewed commercial crabber John Van Alstine about the threat of new regulations. To hear a podcast of these interviews, visit the Maryland Morning web site and go to "Will Saving the Crabs Kill the Crabbers?" (Wednesday, April 30, 2008).
To learn more about Paolisso’s work and a series of watermen-scientist dialogues supported by Maryland Sea Grant, see Chesapeake Quarterly. Paolisso describes his thinking in detail in a 46-page monograph, Chesapeake Environmentalism. For more about Paolisso, visit his web page.