Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Maryland Watermen's Monument

If you have ever driven down Route 50 on Maryland's Eastern Shore, chances are you have seen the road sign for the Maryland Watermen's Monument. You probably glanced briefly at it and then continued without stopping to get to Ocean City or home. The other day, I happened to be in the area and stopped by to finally see what the memorial was about.

Located in Kent Narrows, this memorial was, according to the Chesapeake Quarterly, constructed in 2003 with private funds to honor those who work as commercial fishermen, or Watermen, in Maryland. Commercial fishing is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. In fact, it typically ranks as the most dangerous every year.

Although being a waterman on the Chesapeake may not nearly as dangerous as being an Alaskan fishermen, the job still carries inherent risks. In addition, it is not as financially rewarding as it used to be, thanks, in part, to government regulation. As State Senator Hershey said at the monument's rededication in 2013, “[O]ne of Maryland’s most traditional industries is under attack, from quotas and harvest limits to increased fees and regulations.”

It is interesting to note that while there are no shortages of public memorials to government employees and officials who perform less dangerous and generally less important work and often for better pay and benefits, the humble watermen who risk their lives to provide us with food must be content with their own small, but dignified, private monument. I suppose that is the way it has always been and always will be. Still if you are driving through the area and have some extra time, stop and take a look at the monument and remember those in all sorts of jobs who work quietly every day, often in dangerous conditions, to keep you happy, healthy, and well-fed.