Workboats: Changing Times
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

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By the 1890s, over-harvesting and dredge damage to oyster reefs had significantly reduced the Bay's oyster population. In the 20th century, pollution and disease exacerbated the problem. Today oyster harvests average less than 1 percent of the bounty of old and the era of workboat "drudge" fleets has drawn to a close. In recent years watermen have also seen their annual catch of blue crabs plummet. In response to concerns over declining fisheries and Bay water quality, the Chesapeake Bay Program launched efforts to conserve and restore the Chesapeake. While many issues remain unresolved, successes include the rebound of rockfish, another signature Bay species.


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