What is an Ocracoke waterman?
A waterman (or woman) is a fisherman, clammer, crabber or oysterman. There
are over thirty watermen on the island, both full time and part time.
How did OWWA – Ocracoke Working Watermen’s
The watermen on Ocracoke got together in spring of 2006 to save their
livelihood. The island’s last fish house was for sale and with no place to
unload or obtain bulk ice the watermen faced a certain end. Watermen up and
down the coast face development pressures, restrictive fishing regulations,
weather complications and competition from cheaper imports. Individually,
each has to find a way within their community to persevere. Ocracoke’s
watermen felt they were responsible watermen, they did not use mechanical
harvest methods and they worked to support the needs of the environment
around them. How could they educate people about their work? How could they
hold onto their tradition, their livelihood and the maritime culture of
Ocracoke? How could they afford to purchase the fish house and what would
the legal structure be?
The answer was to have all watermen form under a non-profit to ensure
protection of their mission, pursuit of education and research. The parent
non-profit would also pursue grants for the purchase of the fish house and
the renovation. The watermen’s group, the Ocracoke Working Watermen’s
Association (OWWA), is a project under the non-profit umbrella of the
The Ocracoke Seafood Company is the base of operations for watermen. The
business sells to wholesalers located off the island and has a retail store
where fresh, daily catch is available.
Ocracoke Seafood is a for-profit subsidiary owned by the Ocracoke
Foundation, a local 501(c)3 organization, for the benefit of Ocracoke’s
Working Watermen (OWWA), who manage the daily operation and develop long
range plans. All profits are recycled into either the business or put
towards mission related expenditures as decided by OWWA.
The watermen as managers and directors is essential. Their direct
involvement cuts out the need for a middle man and their philosophy is to be
the direct link between consumers and fresh seafood.
What does OWWA do?
OWWA focuses on education, research, restoration and is a voice for all
watermen. This is an ongoing effort that changes to meet the needs of the
public and current issues in the industry.
Read more about Education efforts and Research & Restoration.
OWWA Board of Directors
Representative positions are on a yearly rotation until June. Role is to
give reports to OFI (Ocracoke Foundation), and gather input from their
constituencies to make sure needs are met and reflected in the management of
OSC (Ocracoke Seafood Company). Meetings are held quarterly and as needed.
2009-2010 OWWA Elections
David Hilton: Commercial fin fishermen
Jerry Lukefahr: Commercial shell fishermen
Ernie Dosier, Farris O'Neal: Recreational/Charter boat fishermen
2009-2010 Ocracoke Seafood Company Elections
David Hilton, President.
James Barrie Gaskill, Vice President
Arlene Burley, Secretary
Hardy Plyler , Treasurer
OWWA 2006 2007 2008
Ocracoke Seafood Company 2006 2007 2008