Every year for the past 20 or so, the Baymen’s Association participates in the annual harbor cleanup in Oyster Bay. Boats from all over the North Shore of Long Island come together to troll the harbor and pick up debris deposited along the coastline during the winter months. It’s important to hit the area before the sea grass and brush along the coast really begin to fill in.
I remember the first year we organized such a massive cleanup effort. It seemed like it would never end. Years of neglect had stubbornly embedded garbage in the muck and the sand from what seemed like all over the world. It was a difficult task, but one that was so necessary. This was more than just the area we worked; these were the waters we fed people from.
Over the years, this cleanup has become a major source of pride among the baymen, who truly consider themselves champions of the environment.
This year I noticed something markedly different about the cleanup. It was easy. Friends of mine who came along with me this year also remarked about how they felt they actually had to hunt for debris along the shore. As a career fisherman in this area, it’s hard to describe how good it feels to know that we have made such great strides in restoring the natural splendor of this habitat while protecting the harvest at the same time.
Life, like the environment, is a balance. And you get out of it what you put in. Put in garbage, and that’s what you’re going to pick out of it. Put in a little love, care, and attention, and well, you get the drift.
With my kids in the boat, I eased along the shoreline looking for remnants of rubbish ushered in by winter storms, and thought about my relationship to the water and the products I serve. Apart from the obvious fact that the clams and oysters I harvest are sweet, fresh, and delicious, they serve a higher purpose. The most important function clams and oysters serve is as nature’s filtration system. Millions of shellfish on the ocean floor handle and cleanse many more millions of gallons of water that flow constantly in and out of the bay as it recharges every day.
So in a way, on this day I’m returning the favor. Lightening the load of the product that feeds my customers who feed my family. How’s that for the circle of life?
Now, you might be thinking that it’s a little hokey to think this way, but it’s honestly how I feel. Spend enough time listening to the wind speak as it hustles across the bay, and you’ll know the water is very much alive, and very much a part of who we are. With my children alongside me in the boat, and my friends nearby, I could swear that I even heard the wind say, "Thank you."
See you on the water. Buzz me later.