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Manuel Pompeia | United States

Joe Lawson takes his gloves out to check the GPS location of the boat. Oystering is only allowed in the central area of the bay. Working here takes four times as long to fill a bushel there than it does closer to the Maurice riverbanks.

Located in southern New Jersey (US), Cumberland County surrounds the Delaware Bay with 65 miles of salt marshes.

By late 19th century, Cumberland would ship over 80 rail cars a week, making oysters the largest fishery product in the Country.

Today, the county is the second poorest of the state, with 37% of its population living below the poverty line.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall, destroying houses along the Bay and re-shaping marine life habitats. Although the county was declared a disaster area, it received 0.11% of the 1.8 billion dollars of federal aid.

In a nearby nuclear plant, 3 billion gallons of water are drawn per day from the Delaware River. The plant is thought to be responsible for killing more than 800 million fish each year, four times as many as commercially caught in the Bay.

In 1990, the plant was ordered to build cooling towers however, in 1994 the state reversed its decision by accepting the plant’s proposal to create an artificial wetland, flooding the 32 sq. miles of dry haven that separate households from the tides.

On a cold Sunday morning, a portrait of a man on the newspaper captivated my attention in such a way, I felt the need to know more about him and the community he was part of. That same afternoon, I was driving to the South of Jersey, to find the person behind that photograph.

When I first met Bob Bateman, I was expecting to get to know more about how Sandy affected the lives of so many in the Bay community. Instead, he and his friends kept referring to the impact of state decision-making on their livelihoods.

Negligence? Corruption? One could say that Cumberland has been forgotten by the policy framework.


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