Video Premiere: The Last Waterman of Wittman
“I made him hate it and I made him hate it for a reason.”
It was Steve Jones’ last week crabbing with his son before he moved to college. His son, who had been helping him crab since he was 6, had chosen to study business.
Steve will be the last member of his family to work on the water after four generations. As much as he wanted his son to crab, he knows its not a sustainable career. He predicts that in 3-5 years, he’ll be out of business and will have to find other work.
We met Steve Jones in a parking lot in August. Ethan and I were going for a walk through the small town of Wittman, Maryland while on vacation with his family. It was noon and we saw him packing up his truck after a morning on the water. We introduced ourselves (we had been curious to talk to some crabbers) and he immediately started talking about the changes in the industry and in his town.
“These scientists are either the smartest dumb people or the dumbest smart people you’ll ever meet.”
He explained to us how government regulation has slowly pushed most Maryland waterman out of business. In the name of preservation, the government prevents Steve from working the oyster bars (which is necessary for keeping them healthy), crabbing more than 8 barrels a day and fishing more than 2 days out of the month in the winter. Yet while the waterman are blamed for the bad state of the water, vacation and retirement home construction (promoted by the government) has destroyed marsh weeds and contaminated the water (docks leach arsenic into the water and chlorinated swimming pools are pumped overboard).
“Everyone is moving away. Families can’t afford to live here any more. There are no jobs and high living costs.There aren’t even enough kids in town to make up a baseball team anymore.”
After Steve finished talking, we knew we had to document this story.
The next morning we boarded his boat at 4 am and spent the morning with him and his son Travis on the water. The Last Waterman of Wittman is the result.
We created this short film to help Steve and the MD waterman’s association advocate for change. But just as important to us was to create a document of Steve’s last days crabbing with his son.