Long Island Maritime Traditions Brings Excitement and Interest to Wheatley Students

As part of a grant awarded to the East Williston School District, Long Island Traditions and the College Regional Studies Program continue to work on a partnership that explores the sustainability of maritime culture in the age of Hurricane Sandy and the decline of commercial and recreational fishing in New York.  This is the only maritime program supported by NYSCA in the state.

As part of this program, students learn about the history of the maritime industry on Long Island, examining its transition from a subsistence occupation to one that once supplied over 75% of the nation’s shellfish. They also learn how technological and fiscal challenges affect the industry. Students learn from fishermen and baymen what kinds of ecological and economic changes have occurred and how government, scientists and fishermen have both collaborated and differed on seeking solutions for problems.   In addition, students learn about the designs of tools used by fishermen such as nets, decoys, traps, boats and other objects that incorporate traditional design elements. They learn about the traditional design principles embodied in these tools and how they have changed over time. This program is part of the College Regional Studies course developed and taught by Dr. John Staudt.

On Wednesday of last week, students had an opportunity to learn directly from the maritime folk artists. Students in both sections of the course enjoyed an opportunity to interact with the maritime artists and learn about their craft. The maritime artists present included:

Russell Bucking: Bayman

Russell is a resident of Babylon and is a full time bayman. Bucking harvests crabs, clams and other shellfish in Great South Bay. Bucking began clamming as a teenager and continues to use tongs and rakes in his garvey, a flat bottom boat common among baymen on the south shore. He also makes model boats in his spare time.

John Buczak: Bayman

John lives in Bay Shore and is a full-time commercial bayman, one of approximately 15 in western Suffolk County. John catches crabs and eels. He makes several kinds of traditional traps including eel traps, killey traps and winkel pots. John is also a storyteller who likes to talk about his bay house and times when he has gone duck hunting.

Reed Riemer: Recreational Fisherman

Reed is president of the Atlantic Anglers Club, a recreational fishing group. Reed is an active fisherman who lives in Oceanside. Reed likes to fish for striped bass, fluke and flounder, black fish and other species found on Long Island. He is very active in the effort to help restore fish in New York waters.

Joey Scavone: Bayman and Fisherman

Joey is a Freeport commercial fisherman who harvests bunker, black fish, blue fish, and week fish and other species. He uses a gill net, setting it off the coast of Long Beach and Point Lookout. Joey has a wide variety of customers including restaurants, fish markets, distributors and wholesalers. Like other fishermen, regulations have had a large impact on his livelihood, adding to the cost of working as a commercial fisherman. Yet he is dedicated to the fishermen’s way of life. “I just basically try and make every day count, whether it’s fishing, clamming or crabbing. As long as the price of fuel doesn’t put us all out of business, I’ll be here tomorrow.”

Tony Sougstad: Dragger Fisherman (In the classroom only)

Tony is the captain of the Freeport dragger boat “E.T.” He catches different kinds of fish in the ocean depending on the time of year. He catches fluke, flounder and squid. Tony fixes his own nets by hand. Tony and other dragger fishermen are worried that they are the last generation to work on dragger boats.

Chuck Tekula : Gillnet fisherman

Chuck catches fish in Great South Bay using a gillnet. He learned to fish from older experienced commercial fishermen who lived near him. Chuck is also an advocate for commercial fishermen, writing for magazines and newspapers about the difficulties that commercial fishermen face.

Fred Menges & Bill Fetzer: Baymen

Fred and Bill are active members of the North Oyster Bay Baymen’s Association. Like most baymen, they work year round on flat bottom boats in Oyster Bay harbor, harvesting clams and wild oysters, eels and killies, using handmade traps and nets and rakes. Fred and Bill have worked on the bay most of their lives.

Ed Thomas: Bayman (Hatchery)

Ed was born in Baldwin and began working as a crabber, catching soft shell crabs since he was 8 years old. He attended college but began working on the bay after graduating. He has worked at Two Cousins Fish Market in Freeport and on deep sea clam boats. Today he raises oysters and clams, and catches horseshoe crabs. Ed was a founder of the Hempstead Shellfishermen’s Association.

Students from Dr. Staudt’s classes were thoroughly engaged by the presentations and the opportunity to try the hands-on work of these maritime artists.

[Thanks to Dr. Staudt for the write-up of this event!]

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