‘Fisherman’s Disease’ afflicts association head


Ken Smith, a leader in the fight to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, has been hospitalized with a serious vibrio infection commonly known as “fisherman’s disease” and believed to be directly related to contaminated marine life and polluted water.

Smith, president of the Virginia Waterman’s Association, was admitted on June 14 to Rappahannock General Hospital in Kilmarnock, suffering from a high fever and a badly swollen right arm.

“This reaffirms our belief, as watermen, that the continuing degradation of the Bay and its tributaries has reached the point that it is imperative that dramatic measures must be taken to improve the estuary’s water quality,” Smith said June 25 from his hospital bed.

Smith said he believes he contracted the vibrio disease on Tuesday when he scratched his arm while emptying a crab pot in Totuskey Creek off the Rappahannock River.  He washed the wound, he said, but it became infected soon after.

“I couldn’t believe how fast the swelling happened and how quick my temperature shot up to 103 degrees,” Smith said, adding that he expects to be in the hospital for several more days.

Since early April, Smith has been leading a determined campaign among Virginia’s watermen to compel agencies of the federal and state governments to institute prompt and effective measures to clean up persistent pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.  The Virginia Waterman’s Association, supported by several other watermen’s groups, has threatened to file a lawsuit to force government agencies to take remedial action against Bay pollution.

In mid-May, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and watermen’s associations from Maryland and Virginia have written a joint letter to U.S. senators urging emergency funding for watermen.  CBF and the watermen also announced a unity of purpose to fight for real solutions to the Bay’s water quality problems.