The Admiral of the Chesapeake Bay award is the highest honor that the Governor of Maryland can bestow on an individual for environmental contributions. It is awarded to those who have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the conservation and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, its surrounding landscapes, and the life that inhabits them.
Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes instituted this award in the 1960′s as part of his concern for environmental and economic matters that centered on Chesapeake Bay health, including the oyster and fish populations, establishing several island reserves and doubling the state park system.
The context of the certificate reads : ” Having trust and confidence in your integrity, prudence and ability, you are hereby appointed and commissioned Admiral of the Chesapeake Bay. A rank of respect, gratefully conveyed to those with a loyal interest in the Maritime State and its beautiful Bay, which harbors the ships of the world. This certificate is awarded with our continue to merit our esteem and favor. Given under the seal and hand of the Great Seal of Maryland at the City of Annapolis.”
The Admiral of the Chesapeake Bay has been awarded to many men and women since the 1960′s, but this year’s recipient will be the last to ever receive it.
Two men from Rock Hall have been named Admiral of the Chesapeake Bay, one believed to be the first to receive this honor on December 20, 1964, and now the last on January 18, 2013. The first was Captain Irving Lemuel Crouch; the last is Captain Lawrence William Simns.
Recovering from several health issues and being hospitalized since late last summer, Larry Simns was unable to attend the official award ceremony at the 39th Maryland Watermen’s Association – East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s & Aquaculture Trade Exposition in Ocean City, MD on Friday, January 18th. Instead, his daughter Dawn Simns Nordhoff and son Robbie Simns were on stage to accept the appointment on Larry’s behalf from John Griffin, Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources. Larry, with his wife Carolyn and daughter Susan and son-in-law Todd Barnhardt, participated in and accepted the appointment via SKYPE from his hospital room at Corsica Hills in Centreville, MD.
In addition to being Admiral of the Chesapeake Bay, Larry will receive citations from The Town of Rock Hall, Kent County Watermen’s Association and Greater Rock Hall Business Association. His new book, Best of Times on the Chesapeake released in December, is for sale locally; copies were gifted to and are on display at Museums of Rock Hall and Eastern Neck Island Book Store. Museums of Rock Hall will dress Durding’s windows this week in honor of our two Admirals, Captain Irving and Captain Larry.
I visited with Larry yesterday to congratulate him and just to sit and talk like we have so often done over the last fifty-some years. During my visits with him at two of the facilities he has been convalescing in, it was no surprise to me that he was the most visited patient and had made quick and long term friends with staff members, therapists, doctors and nurses. Because of his charming nature and array of pajamas, he was nicknamed “Captain Hugh Hefner” at Good Samaritan in Baltimore and now “Admiral” at Corsica Hills.
Although I have talked with and listened to him speak formally on many occasions over the years, I am always touched by his deep love and faith. He has told me repeatedly over the past few months that with his illness and book release he has received the greatest gifts he could ever ask for. They are that he has felt and seen first hand the love within his large family and group of friends, and that many are starting to realize that watermen are not the enemy of the Chesapeake. Instead, as a community, they have done much in terms of conservation. Larry was also surprised at the number of visitors and who some of them were. People on different sides of the great Chesapeake debate and those who have fought against watermen and Larry have visited, written and expressed respect for him and his life’s work, which has both greatly surprised and touched him.
Just hours before he was to SKYPE in to the official presentation, he told me that he was honored to be named to the group of Admirals, especially with Captain Irving. He thought it deeply symbolic, as do I, that Captain Irving was first and he will be the last.
In the 1950′s Captain Irving, along with Captain Frank Beck, originally founded the Commercial Rockfish Association and also served as presidents of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association. The goal of the Commercial Rockfish Association was to bring legislation, protection and conservation to the rockfish industry, which Captain Irving and Captain Frank felt was being adversely effected by both recreational fishermen and contaminates. Captain Irving –deeply concerned about the future of the Chesapeake — introduced the concept and legislation for larger gauge nets for commercial harvesters.
Larry says that the Commercial Rockfish Association felt it had done its job and that the battles were over. As a teenager Larry would go to Annapolis with Rock Hall watermen to serve an annual dinner to state legislators and lobbyists. It became clear to Larry that the battles and issues were far from over. In 1970, Larry took all his respect for and work of Captain Irving and Captain Frank, combined that with his knowledge, concern and experience and established the Maryland Watermen’s Association of which he is still president.
In his acceptance speech, Larry said that the Admiral of the Chesapeake award is for all the watermen, who have been dedicated and have worked together towards effective conservation methods and Chesapeake restoration.
He believes that now and for future watermen, the continued involvement in cleanup and regulation matters is key, and that they must be or be part of the management. Larry strongly agrees with the quota system, but thinks that the watermen should determine when and how they harvest. This is done in other countries and states like Alaska and around the Gulf of Mexico.
Larry believes that the Chesapeake can bounce back in eighteen months and be completely rejuvenated in ten to fifteen years with these things:
- Toilets that do not flush water
- New methods for sewer treatment
- Educated young people involved and interested in the Chesapeake
- Consideration of and responsibility by watershed and effecting states including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virigina
- Management of resources by watermen
- More effective management of and responsibility by recreational fishermen
- Faith in God and each other and working together
Please join us in congratulating Admiral Lawrence William Simns by posting here or visiting the display at Durding’s Store next week. Cards may be mailed to him at Corsica Hills, 205 Armstrong Road, Centreville, MD 21617.