Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Research Publications: UM-SG-RS-2003-34


Chesapeake Bay watermen, weather and blue crabs: cultural models and fishery policies.




Michael P


Strauss, S; Orlove, B, eds. Weather, Climate, Culture. Berg Publishers. Chapter 4:61-81


In this chapter my aim is to present a cultural analysis of watermen's knowledge of the role of  weather in the blue crab fishery. Drawing on interview and observation data from my ongoing fieldwork with Maryland watermen on the lower Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, I will provide examples of the type of associations watermen see between different weather patterns and crab behavior. Understanding the weather's effect on crab behavior has obvious economic implications for watermen in terms of the fishing and the marketing of blue crabs. However, for watermen this understanding also has ecological and political significance: unpredictable weather changes affect crab behavior in ways that protect the crab from overharvesting. According to watermen, the randomness of weather creates unpredictable changes in crab behavior, which in turn function to prevent watermen from overharvesting crabs. Watermen's strong beliefs in the biological  effectiveness of weather's beneficial contribution to sustaining the fishery is part of the reason for watermen's resistance to recent scientific and state regulatory actions implemented to protect the blue crab reproductive stock.

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