Maryland honors longtime Chesapeake Bay advocate

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Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley designated Larry Simns as Admiral of the Chesapeake for his work as the chief advocate for Maryland’s watermen and their communities and for his role in promoting changes to better ensure the sustainability of commercial fishing in the state.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources secretary John Griffin presented the award to Simns’ family Jan. 18 at the 39th East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s and Aquaculture Trade Exposition in Ocean City.

“I want to congratulate Larry for his outstanding leadership and the Maryland Watermen’s Association on their 40-year anniversary,” O’Malley said in a statement. “Larry has served as the voice of the men and women who work tirelessly to ensure that our local restaurants, markets and citizens have consistent and quality local seafood. He has been vital to the livelihood of our state’s watermen and we congratulate him for helping to promote responsible fishing practices and understanding the need for a balanced fishery that supports both the industry and our natural world.”

Simns, president and founder of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, has worked as a commercial waterman and charterboat operator for more than 60 years. He founded the association in 1973, serving as president and laboring on behalf of Maryland watermen who make their living by their catch. A fourth-generation waterman from Rock Hall, Simns’ longtime love of the Chesapeake and working on the water began at the age of 6, when his great-grandfather, Capt. Willy Stevens, employed him to row the boat while Stevens ran his trot line.

“The Chesapeake Bay is part of who we are as Marylanders. It is part of our heritage, our culture and is our greatest natural resource,” U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski said in a statement. “For 40 years, Larry Simns … has fought to preserve watermen’s traditions and their opportunity to work on the water while also helping them to face the realities of the global economy and the myriad of environmental factors facing our beloved Bay. His work has not been easy and gratitude is not always forthcoming.”

The Department of Natural Resources said Simns provided watermen with leadership during the striped bass population collapse and five-year harvest moratorium between 1985 and 1989, the decline and ongoing restoration of Maryland’s oyster fishery and resource and the near collapse of the blue crab fishery prior to 2008. The department said he showed all Marylanders the essence of what watermen do and how their work affects the people of Maryland and helped establish Chesapeake Bay restoration measures.

He also helped create the Commercial Fishermen of America and serves on its board, and along with the state’s natural resources department he helped to initiate the Maryland Blue Crab Industry Management Design Team for the sustainability and future management of crabs in the Bay.

Now, in his 70s, Simns remains active in the Kent County Watermen’s Association, continues to serve as president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association and works as a crabber and charterboat captain. He also recently penned “The Best of Times on the Chesapeake Bay — An Account of a Rock Hall Waterman,” a collection of memories from his life on the water.

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