The following historical background places the landing figures in the context of the diverse and numerous events that have influenced them. It is divided into two parts: a Chronology of Factors Affecting Harvests and a Table of Laws and Regulations. The Chronology describes many of the natural, legal, social, economic, and conservational impacts on harvests over most of the twentieth century. It is derived mainly from two sets of sources, annual reports and newsletters, supplemented occasionally from other material.

The annual reports of the MDNR predecessor organizations - the Conservation Commission, Conservation Department, and Board of Natural Resources, comprise a largely unbroken and relatively detailed record of events from 1916 to 1969. The subsequent MDNR reports are more cursory and generally less informative from this perspective. The second source of information is a series of newsletters put out by the Md. Department of Research and Education (part of the Board of Natural Resources) during the 1940's and 1950's entitled Maryland Tidewater News. The newsletter resumed as a fisheries extension service in 1968, continued through the formation of MDNR and lasted into the early 1980's, first as the Commercial Fisheries News, then as Tidewater Fisheries News.

Three caveats are in order concerning the sources for the Chronology. It must be recognized that over this long period of time, the annual reports were written by several individuals with varying perspectives and priorities. A detail that may have been important to one author may have been ignored by another. Thus, internal consistency is questionable and events or factors may have been omitted, though the newsletters helped in filling in gaps. Although the Chronology is reasonably comprehensive, especially concerning major issues, it should not be considered as all-inclusive. Secondly, an attempt has been made to retain the original tone of the statements found in the reports, especially those expressing opinions, so that they would not be misinterpreted as facts. Thirdly, statements were often made without supporting references. Some, such as those describing weather-related disruptions, generally do not require substantiation, while those concerning less tangible factors such as market demand are left to the reader's discretion. In fairness to these past authors, they are writing from a contemporary perspective, with the immediacy of time and position giving them access to information that may otherwise be lost today, and should be given due consideration.

In contrast to the Chronology, the Table of Laws and Regulations is derived entirely from primary sources and is fully referenced. The most important laws having an impact on harvests were gleaned from the annual editions of the Laws of Maryland, as well as several volumes of the Annotated Code dating from the 1880's to the present. Significant Code of Maryland regulations (COMAR, initiated in 1975) were from the Maryland Register. Pre-COMAR regulations are on file at the Maryland State Law Library in Annapolis, including original carbons of the difficult to find, non-codified regulations issued between 1965 and 1972.

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