A program seeks to restore the number of Black maritime captains on the Bay. Photo: Andrea Moran courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Nonprofit Supports Next Generation of Black Commercial Captains

The nonprofit Minorities in Aquaculture has already made headlines paving the way for women and people of color in oyster growing. Now, the group’s founder has set her sights on supporting Black maritime captains, too.

Chestertown, Kent County, native Imani Black founded Minorities in Aquaculture in 2020, when she was the only woman of color working as a oyster hatchery manager. Her mission was to give underrepresented groups better opportunities in Bay industries.

One of the nonprofits programs, called Minorities on Course, seeks to help a new generation of African Americans who want to build a maritime career. The program gives scholarships for people to earn a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Captain’s License and other certifications, and connects aspiring captains with leaders in the industry.

The tradition of Black commercial captains is waning. Older captains are leaving the industry without a younger generation in place to take over, the Minorities on Course program says. Citing a recent Chesapeake Quarterly report by Rona Kobell, they point out that only 11 Black headboat captains are operating out of Kent Narrows anymore, with more than half of those over 70 years old. This spring Chesapeake Bay Magazine spoke to Captain James Lynch, who diversified his business from oyster tonging to include headboat charters.

Captain James “Buck” Lynch tongs for oysters in the winter and operates a charter fishing headboat out of Kent Narrows. Photo: James Ronayne

The Minorities on Course program, which launched in 2021, seeks to reverse the declining number of Black headboat captains on the Bay by covering instructional course costs and providing practical experience. So far, 11 African American men and women have graduated from the program with their USCG 100-ton Captain’s License.

“This program is not just about getting more Black people on the water,” says Imani Black, Founder and CEO of Minorities in Aquaculture. “This is about career development skills and honoring the Chesapeake’s traditional commercial fisheries’ legacy through actively preserving the Black maritime presence.”

Leaders in Chesapeake Bay maritime businesses continue to sign up to collaborate in the program, including Captain Michael McQueen, owner of Reel Altitude Fishing Charter, and his son Captain Sonny McQueen of Solomons; Captain Bill Tynall of R&D Boat Supply in Cambridge, who is the oldest living Black captain on the Bay today; and Mahogany Yacht Charters, a Black female-owned luxury charter business in Washington, D.C.

In-kind sponsors like XTRATUF Boot Company and The Jetty Rock Foundation provide supplies to the participants. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation offers access to their educational vessels so the aspiring captains can get their USCG-required sea time in.

The third cohort of Minorities on Course participants will start up this fall. Minorities in Aquaculture has raised $25,000 to support six new commercial Black captains on the Bay. To learn more about contributing or becoming a participant, visit or contact the MIA team at [email protected].