printed 09/13/2019


Maryland’s Fishing Grounds and our beaches are in danger until offshore drilling is stopped for good.

Fishing has been a source of income and a cherished pastime for most of my life and I know I am not alone. Crabbing and fishing runs deep in our state.

Here along the Eastern Shore, fishing opportunities are never hard to find. I worry that could quickly change if offshore drilling begins off our coast.

The federal government is trying hard to make that a reality for states up and down the Atlantic Coast, against the will of Gov. [Larry] Hogan who opposes offshore drilling. We’re counting on our elected officials in Washington, D.C. to put a stop to the drilling plan and protect our coast from this dirty operation.

One way they can do that is by voting “yes” on H.R. 1941, the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act. This bill bans future oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Representative Andy Harris should jump at the opportunity to support H.R. 1941. It’s a no-brainer since his constituents are wholly united against the expansion of offshore drilling and exploration along the Atlantic Coast.

As someone whose life revolves around the water, the threats of offshore oil development are obvious and far-reaching.

There’s the looming risk of another large-scale disaster like BP’s Deepwater Horizon, which spewed more than 200 million gallons into the Gulf and continued for 87 days as workers failed to seal it.

A recent report by Oceana found that at least 6,500 oil spills happened in U.S. waters between 2007 to 2017. I shudder to think how our communities would fare when we’re the ones who have to deal with the fallout from these drilling failures.

If companies started drilling in the Atlantic, it would only be a matter of time before one of those accidents caused oil to start washing up on our beaches.

A spill here could devastate our unique coastal environment – tainting our beachfront, our backwaters and even reaching up into the Chesapeake Bay.

I love to fish and be outdoors. I built my life here to take advantage of Maryland’s incredible coastal resources. I taught my grandkids how to catch menhaden, crab and fish here.

The crab pots off my dock deliver a regular Sunday meal for my family and friends. These clean, abundant waters define my very way of life along the coast. But all that could be forever changed at the first sign of an oil spill.

It’s not just my life that would be affected by drilling and spilling in the Atlantic. These waters support seriously lucrative fisheries – blue crabs, stripers, clams, and flounder to name a few.

These fish populations and many others provide an income and jobs for fishermen up and down the coast. We know from past disasters that spilled oil can cause fish die-offs and catch rates to drop. We know oil in the water can cause consumers to stop buying local fish.

That means these fishermen would be out of a job. Healthy fisheries are too valuable to the economic well-being of Maryland communities to risk with dirty offshore drilling.

What would happen to our tourism industry?

There are many families that rely on the jobs created by the attraction of our clean water and beaches. Restaurants, hotels, and all the supporting business’ count on the tourist trade.

Thousands of people travel to our beaches for their vacation. An oil spill off our coast would devastate fisheries, ruin our local economy, and destroy our way of life as we know it.

We are counting on Representative Harris to recognize just how much is at stake for his constituents if offshore drilling moves forward and urge his “yes” vote on H.R. 1941.

It’s a win-win for Maryland’s coastal communities and ocean resources.

I want my family, neighbors, members of our fishing club, and all the tourist to enjoy our beaches, waterways and fisheries for generations to come in Maryland.

I understand the need to be energy independent. From what I have been led to believe, the amounts of oil and gas that are expected to be produced are minuet compared to the cost of the loss due to a major oil spill.

Ron Smith, President

Atlantic Coast Sportfishing Association

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