Sustainable Tourism Development

Chesapeake Bay has a long history of supporting fishermen, locally known as watermen. For hundreds of years, families have passed this tradition and often their boats down to their children. All this time on the water provides watermen with a lifetime of first-hand knowledge about the Chesapeake Bay, natural cycles, how things have changed over time, and thoughts about ways to restore and protect the Bay. Storytelling is an intrinsic part of the history and traditions of these working waterfront communities. Watermen are born storytellers and ambassadors for the Chesapeake Bay, but lacked a way to convey their rich and fascinating tales to others.

CEC works with the Virginia Waterman’s Association, Rappahannock Community College’s Workforce and Community Development Office, and many other community partners, to train working watermen to lead on-water tours based on the rich heritage of the seafood industry and the importance of a clean Bay to everyone. They are able to the public a glimpse into this unique way of life, while generating an additional source of income to create a more sustainable industry, and helping the growth of the local economy by bringing in tourism and emphasizing locally-purchased seafood.

This training program gives watermen the tools they need to share their culture and in-depth knowledge of the Chesapeake Bay environment, history, and maritime heritage. Training classes are specifically designed to teach watermen how to convey their personal connection to the Bay and its resources. Instruction includes business development and marketing, storyline development, environmental science basics, and tour logistics such as insurance. Participating watermen also have an on-water practical to practice their tour and show what they’ve learned.

The Virginia Watermen Heritage Tour program now spans coastal areas around our state, offering unique and fun experiences for your whole family. Do you know where your seafood comes from or who harvested it? We think you should because it’s not only educational to get to know your local watermen; it’s also a boatload of fun! These watermen-led tours are unique to each captain’s expertise, and can be customized depending on the needs of the tour group. They can be designed to dovetail with class curricula, for wildlife/bird-watching, demonstrating fishery techniques such as tonging for oysters, and more. Learn more about the Virginia Watermen Heritage Tours on Facebook.

The Watermen Heritage Tourism Training Program has been featured in the Washington Post, Washingtonian Magazine, AAA World Magazine, Virginia Cooperative Living, and many other publications. The Program won the Community Economic Development Award in 2014 from the Southern Economic Development Council. The Program has been supported through the generosity of Virginia Sea Grant, Virginia Environmental Endowment, Virginia Tourism Corporation, US Department of Agriculture, Rappahannock Community College, and the Northern Neck Tourism Commission.