The Beacon

Blog Tags: Water Pollution

Chesapeake Watermen Struggle in 'The Last Boat Out'

blue crab

When John Smith explored the Chesapeake Bay in the early 1600s he reported that oysters "lay as thick as stones." Now they are at about 2 percent of their historic population, and in 2008 the federal government declared the blue crab fishery a commercial failure.

The Bay has seen much better days, and so have its watermen. Such is this premise of a new documentary by Laura Seltzer, “The Last Boat Out." Wednesday evening I attended an advanced screening of the documentary, which is narrated by Oceana board member Sam Waterston.

The 30-minute film portrays the Chesapeake Bay's watermen as an endangered species themselves, fighting to stay afloat amid shrinking populations of crabs, oysters and fish -- their historic bread and butter.

Filmmaker Laura Seltzer focuses on a pair of middle-aged brothers who are struggling to continue the family business on the water. They represent a few of the 2800 remaining watermen, who have seen a 70% decline in 30 years.

Nutrient pollution is a big part of the problem, as Seltzer demonstrates. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus from agriculture, wastewater and fertilizer deplete the bay’s oxygen, creating dead zones that can’t sustain life.


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