James Holland is a native Georgian raised in
the small rural town of Cochran.  Cochran is
home for the Middle Georgia College (MGC) a
part of the University of Georgia system.

During Holland’s child hood years he learned to
fish and hunt which became a passion of his
until this day.

Went into the United States Marine Corps
(USMC) in 1958 and was honorably discharged
in 1967.  After leaving the Marines Holland
worked in the food service industry and traveled
extensively throughout the United States.

In the mid 1970’s Holland sought a career as a
commercial blue crab fisherman in Georgia’s
coastal waters.  He loved the way of life as a
commercial fisherman; however, in the early
1990’s he observed changes in the number of
blue crabs that he and others were catching on a
daily basis.  The downward trend in his catches
continued until it became increasingly difficult to
make a living for his family as a commercial blue
crab fisherman.

Holland along with others started questioning
why they were seeing this dramatic downward
trend in the blue crab quantities along the
Georgia Coastal waters.  Holland started talking
with scientists that understood marine waters
and the aquatic species that inhabit marine
waters.  After 3-4 years discussing and trying to
understand why the crab populations were in
such dramatic declines he and many others
including scientists believed it was the lack of
freshwater input into the coastal salt marshes.

After further investigation it was revealed that
many of southeast Georgia’s wetlands had been
ditched and drained to increase the production
of plantation pine trees for the growing pulp
wood industry in Georgia.   It is believed by
Holland and others that this loss of wetlands
created a situation in southeastern Georgia that
no longer allows for the proper storage of
freshwater on the landscape that was naturally
intended by nature.

Wetlands and swamps naturally store and filter
rain and floodwater prior to slowly releasing it
into the coastal marsh and estuarine system.
However, it is believed that this natural storage
capacity was vastly disrupted by the introduction
of the major wetland draining that occurred
about 30-40 years ago and ending in the mid
1980’s.  The trickle down effect of freshwater to
the marshes was lost when the swamps were
drained.  Now, when we receive major inputs of
freshwater into these areas it rapidly runs off
leaving long periods that can turn into drought
like conditions in the coastal marshes.

Many of coastal Georgia’s inshore marine
species require low to mid level salinities during
certain periods of their life cycle.  The loss of
wetlands and other environmental conditions
have created conditions in the marshes and
estuaries that cause salinity levels to become
elevated causing havoc in the life cycles of
certain aquatic species along the coast of

Armed with this knowledge Holland and a very
small group of people formed the Altamaha
Riverkeeper, Inc. (ARK) to protect Georgia’s
marshes, wetlands and streams in the
Altamaha River Watershed.  This group was
formed in February 1999 and Holland stopped
commercial fishing to become the Altamaha
Riverkeeper in July, 1999.

Holland retired from the Altamaha Riverkeeper
in May of 2010, but continues to do volunteer

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