Commercial fishers of the Chesapeake Bay, known throughout the region as watermen, have depended for centuries on the bay's natural resources to support their families and communities. Recently, yield and population indicators have led marine scientists and natural resource managers to conclude that the blue crab population is at dangerously low levels and that reductions in commercial harvesting are key to protecting the blue crab. Watermen agree that the blue crab fishery is under intense pressure and see a role for science and regulations in helping to sustain the fishery and their livelihoods, but they question the scientific knowledge and are critical of the governmental regulations. Watermen's knowledge, beliefs, and values have not been explored for their potential as an alternative or complement to scientific and regulatory approaches to addressing problems of the blue crab fishery. This paper uses a cognitive anthropology approach to enrich our understanding of watermen's cultural and ecological knowledge and to analyze that knowledge to identify a cultural model of watermen's reasoning about blue crab management.

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