News & Events for Chesapeake Bay

Feds interview Tangier watermen, look into oyster sales records in Crisfield

Date Posted: 2017-06-26
Source: Bay Journal

Editor's Note: If you're interested in Tangier Island, please see this wonderful feature Angel and the Seawall: The story of an American intervention


Tangier, VA Mayor James 'Ooker' Eskridge said federal fish and wildlife officers arrived by boat and helicopter, interviewed several watermen about oyster harvests. (Rona Kobell)

Officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visited several watermen on Tangier Island and seafood businesses in Crisfield last week as part of an investigation they are conducting related to oysters.

The federal officials interviewed watermen on the Virginia island, asking for records related to oyster sales to Crisfield businesses. They took copies of records but did not seize any bivalves; it’s not harvest season.

Federal officials would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation, saying that’s their policy. But Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, did confirm “federal law enforcement activity” in Crisfield and Tangier last Wednesday.

Tangier Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge said the officials came in two boats and a helicopter; at first, he said, he thought President Donald Trump had arrived. Trump famously phoned the mayor earlier this month, having seen a program on CNN about how Tangiermen didn’t believe in climate change – their problem was erosion – and had overwhelmingly voted for him.

Eskridge, a crabber, said the officers told him they had been conducting surveillance of the island, and did interviews with several watermen. Though it is 10 miles from the mainland in the Chesapeake Bay, marine law enforcement is never far. Two Virginia Marine Resources Commission officers live in Tangier; commissioner John M.R. Bull describes them as “active officers.”

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