What's Bill Seeing in the Field: Slick Cam

For more than 30 years, CBF Educator and photographer Bill Portlock has been exploring, documenting, and teaching the wonders of the Chesapeake and its rivers and streams. With his vast, intimate knowledge and experience with the watershed, we thought who better to check in with about what he's seeing in the field right now . . .

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Waterman David Melville harvests clams on "slick cam" (slick calm) waters near Gwynn's Island the day after Thanksgiving.

The waterman works aboard his well-maintained deadrise Third Son, using patent tongs to harvest clams. The hydraulic tongs are operated with foot pedals, one to open and close the tongs, the other to raise and lower them. The patent tongs are lowered to the Bay floor where they extract a clump of Bay bottom, with clams included. The hard clams or quahogs (also known as little necks, cherrystones, or chowders based on their size) can live 40 years or more if they escape predation.

In 1758, Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist Carl Linnaeus, who formalized the modern system of naming organisms called binomial nomenclature, gave the quahog its scientific name Mercenaria mercenaria because beads of quahog shell, fashioned by Native Americans, were used for currency in 17th century New England. "Mercenaria," is derived from the Latin word for wage.

—Photographs and Text by Bill Portlock, CBF Senior Educator

What else is Bill seeing in the field these days? Click here to see.

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Photo of the Week: Gone for Winter

Image1Taken just the other week during the Thanksgiving holiday.

A Thanksgiving postcard from the middle of the Bay.

The blessing of mild weather and a calm Bay gave us an opportunity to make one last run for the season in Nana's skiff before Thanksgiving dinner.

Seen here, an osprey nest on the Uppards area of Tangier Island sits vacant, a sure sign that winter can't be too far off. We look forward to seeing these beautiful birds again next year.

—Suzanne M. Pruitt 

Ensure that Suzanne and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights and places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay and its waters! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


This Week in the Watershed: A Cold Dip for the Bay

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The moment a bunch of crazy Bay lovers (including dogs!) dashed towards the frigid Bay waters to thank our generous members for their support on Giving Tuesday. Photo by Elaine Lutz/CBF Staff.

For the second straight year, a bunch of CBF staffers took a dip into the frigid waters of the Chesapeake Bay as a thank you to the hundreds of generous CBF members who gave on Giving Tuesday.

Since 2012, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving has been recognized as Giving Tuesday. Fueled by social media, this global day of giving raises tens of millions of dollars for various causes. This year we far exceeded our $15,000 goal.

In 2016:

  • We gave 40,000 students and teachers unforgettable experiences on our rivers, streams, and Bay;
  • Planted more than 46 million water-filtering oysters on reefs and 17,000 trees across the region; and
  • Worked with 386 farmers and landowners to install conservation practices to reduce agricultural pollution.

The money raised on Giving Tuesday will help us do that, and more, in 2017!

P.S. Did you miss out on Giving Tuesday? Not to fear: Our special dollar-for-dollar match lasts through the end of the year. Click here to learn more and to show your love for the Bay and its rivers and streams!

This Week in the Watershed: Fish Talks, Reducing Runoff, and Poop Rules

  • Localities throughout Pennsylvania Fees are embracing fees to reduce stormwater runoff. (ABC 27—PA)
  • Some environmentalist are alarmed by the apparent weakening of manure pollution rules on Maryland's Eastern Shore. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Often called "the most important fish in the sea," menhaden will be front and center as the topic of two meetings in Hampton Roads, VA next week. (The Virginian-Pilot—VA) Bonus: Register for the Blue Planet Forum, 12/6!
  • A group of sixth-graders had a fun day full of learning outside at CBF's Brock Environmental Center. (The Virginian-Pilot—VA)
  • We love these enthusiastic fourth-graders who helped us build a rain garden in Hampton, VA. (Daily Press—VA)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

December 3

  • Broadway, VA: Come on out and help us plant hundreds of native trees and shrubs on a picturesque farm in the Shenandoah Valley. Volunteers should bring a sun hat, sun screen, and work gloves. Volunteers are also asked to bring a packed lunch. This planting event is suitable for children closely supervised by adults. Click here to register! Registration is closed.

December 6

  • Norfolk, VA: Join us for a presentation on what is often called,"the most important fish in the sea"—menhaden. An expert panel will discuss why menhaden matter and future prospects for the fishery. This event is part of the Blue Planet Forum—a free environmental lecture series with a mission to educate and engage the public on important environmental issues affecting Hampton Roads and the nation. The event is free, but registration is requested—Register here!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Photo of the Week: One Last Cruise

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I had a beautiful fall season on the Bay . . . out a few times a week in the upper Chesapeake, but with colder temps moving in, it was time for one last cruise.

Spent all day Friday [Nov. 18] out on the water in my 1968 Trojan Seaskiff, fishing until sunset. Was beautiful. 

Hauled MoNaH out at noon the next day just before the winter winds came in.

—Michael Redmond

Ensure that Michael and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights and places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay and its waters! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Happy Thanksgiving!

At this special time of year, we're reminded of how grateful we are for all of you and your support of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

This year alone, you helped plant more than 46 million water-filtering oysters on reefs and 17,000 trees across the region. And you helped give 40,000 students and teachers unforgettable experiences on our rivers, streams, and Bay so that they will learn to love and protect these waters like we do. 

All of these things were only made possible through your commitment to clean water. So we're sending you a special thank you directly from CBF President Will Baker on this golden November day at the Merrill Center.

Thank you again for all that you do to Save the Bay. We never could have come so far or accomplished so much over the years without your dedication, passion, and generosity. 

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at CBF!

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

 


Bill's Tried-and-True Thanksgiving Recipe

OysterStuffing_600x386For 27 years, my family and neighbors have spent Thanksgiving on the banks of Stove Point, overlooking Fishing Bay and the mouth of the Piankatank River in Virginia. From there, we eat raw oysters, drink Bloody Marys, and glance out over the Bay's gray, November waters.   

To me, there's no better place or time of year to experience the Chesapeake. 

I'm grateful for that day, that place, that moment with family and friends. And I'm thankful for you, too. As CBF supporters, your generosity and friendship make everything we do possible. Because of you, in this year alone, we planted more than 46 million native oysters on reefs and 17,000 trees across the watershed. We gave 40,000 students and teachers unforgettable experiences on our rivers, streams, and Bay so that they will learn to love and protect these waters like we do.

All of these things were only made possible through your commitment to clean water.  

And as a small token of our gratitude, please enjoy Director of Fisheries Bill Goldsborough's favorite oyster stuffing recipe just in time for the holidays. It's the perfect addition to a hearty meal on a cold winter's day.

What's more, it's the perfect way to celebrate Bill's last month with CBF. After 38 years of tirelessly fighting for the Bay's rockfish, oysters, and crabs, Bill will be retiring in December. And we are so incredibly grateful for and proud of his extraordinary efforts to restore this Bay we all love.  

Click here to celebrate Bill and get his tried-and-true oyster stuffing recipe. 

We've accomplished so much over the years thanks to your dedication, passion, and generosity. Thank you again for all that you do to Save the Bay.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 —Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

 


Photo of the Week: The Supermoon and the Mighty Potomac

DSC_2767CBF The Supermoon of November 13 2016
"The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course; but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished." —Ming-Dao Deng

 

As the supermoon (AKA the beaver moon) rises over ridgelines of Blockhouse Point Conservation Park and Sharpshin Island under fall skies, the mighty Potomac becomes vividly reflective of its serene beauty and deeply solemn among paddlers who enjoy this magical and wondrous waterway through all the seasons.

—Dom J. (DJ) Manalo

Ensure that DJ and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights and places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay and its waters! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


This Week in the Watershed: A Threatened Pennsylvania Hallmark

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Brook trout, a hallmark of Pennsylvania waterways and a great indicator of clean water, is threatened by both invasive species and warming waters as the result of climate change. Photo by Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP.

One of my most vivid collegiate memories occurred on the banks of a central Pennsylvania lake. While out in the field for an environmental science class, the Professor pointed out a handful of geese pecking away at underwater grasses and asked the class, "What should we do with these geese?" Upon the reply of several students saying we should protect them, he bellowed out, "WRONG! We should shoot them all!"

Despite the crassness of his response, his point resonates—invasive species can have major consequences on the ecological health of our rivers, streams, and the native species that call them home.

This week, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a study revealing that Pennsylvania's native brook trout is threatened by the invasive brown trout. Brook trout are commonly regarded as a "canary in the coal mine" for pollution, as they require cold and clean water for survival. As such, brook trout are particularly susceptible to warming waters as the result of climate change.

The USGS study found that the presence of the invasive brown trout is another significant challenge for the brook trout, as the brown trout has higher tolerance to warmer waters and competes with the brook trout for food sources.

Brook trout are a hallmark of Pennsylvania's rivers and streams. As a great indicator for healthy water, their dwindling population is telling. In addition to the need for strong fisheries management to address harmful invasive species, we need to fully implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Our children and grandchildren deserve clean water, and the proliferation of the brook trout will indicate we are headed in the right direction.

This Week in the Watershed: Oyster Balance, Eel Abundance, and A Pennsylvania Hallmark

  • Oysters present quite a challenge in striking a balance between the short-term needs of watermen and long-term needs of a sustainable fishery. (WRC—VA)
  • Invasive species combined with the effects of climate change are a brutal combination for Pennsylvania's native brook trout. (USGS Press Release)
  • Local residents in Maryland's Howard County are pushing for financial incentives to push commercial property owners to implement practices to reduce polluted runoff. (Howard County Times—MD)
  • Eels are returning in abundance to the Susquehanna River, leaving environmentalists hopeful other species such as mussels will follow suit. (Bay Journal)
  • Bravo to CBF's Bill Portlock, who received the Garden Club of Virginia's Elizabeth Cabell Dugdale Award for Conservation. Portlock has been with CBF since 1981 as an environmental educator, restoration leader, and accomplished photographer. (Free Lance Star—VA)
  • Amidst debates over oyster harvesting, Maryland is looking at Virginia for lessons learned. (Bay Journal)
  • CBF is working to clean Virginia's Hampton River through planting oysters. (Daily Press—VA)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

November 20

  • Portsmouth, VA: Come on out to a fun-filled, family-friendly annual event that combines educational engagement and ecological stewardship. RIVER-Fest '16 will emphasize practices and activities that will sustain and improve the health of the Elizabeth River. CBF is looking for 6-8 volunteers to assist with a variety of activities. Please contact Tanner Council to register or for more information at tcouncil@cbf.org or 757-622-1964.

December 3

  • Broadway, VA: Come on out and help us plant hundreds of native trees and shrubs on a picturesque farm in the Shenandoah Valley. Volunteers should bring a sun hat, sun screen, and work gloves. Volunteers are also asked to bring a packed lunch. Light refreshments will be provided. This planting event is suitable for children closely supervised by adults. Please RSVP by November 30 to Robert Jennings at 484-888-2966 or RJennings@cbf.org.

December 6

  • Norfolk, VA: Join us for a presentation on what is often called,"the most important fish in the sea"—menhaden. An expert panel will discuss why menhaden matter and the future prospects for the fishery. This event is part of the Blue Planet Forum — a free environmental lecture series with a mission to educate and engage the public on important environmental issues affecting Hampton Roads and the nation. The event is free, but registration is requested — Register here!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Cumberland County Setting the pace for Farm Inspections in Pennsylvania's Rebooted Clean Water Strategy

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Before photo of a heavy use area on a Cumberland County farm. Cumberland County is among 28 conservation districts inspecting farms for the required manure management, and erosion and sediment plans, as prescribed in Pennsylvania’s rebooted strategy to reduce pollution from agriculture. Photo by Mike Lubinsky/Cumberland County Chesapeake Bay Engineer.

Cumberland County is getting positive reaction from farmers, as one of 28 conservation districts conducting farm inspections as prescribed in Pennsylvania's rebooted strategy to reduce pollution from agriculture.

As conservation districts in nine counties opted out of doing farm inspections for fear of straining relations they have with farmers, the process within the Cumberland County Conservation District (CCCD) is going smoothly because of its familiarity with farmers.

"Our two technicians know the county, kinds of crops farmers are growing and the landscape," says CCCD board chairman Wilbur Wolf, Jr. "When they need to talk to farmers about future improvement, they can do it. If somebody from DEP (state Department of Environmental Protection) comes to the farm, they are not as familiar with the county and the resources in order to make an informed decision when it comes to the best practices suited for that farm."

"We're acting as an intermediary to help farmers get into compliance," CCCD manager Carl Goshorn adds. Cumberland is the fastest growing county in the Commonwealth with about 500 farmers and 1,400 different tracts of land.

Roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania are damaged by pollution and the Commonwealth is significantly behind in meeting its Clean Water Blueprint goals. The Blueprint requires that 60 percent of pollution reduction practices be in place by 2017, and 100 percent in place by 2025. The Commonwealth has acknowledged that it will not meet the 2017 goal.

As part of the Keystone State's strategy to get back on track, the DEP asked conservation districts to inspect ten percent of farms annually for the required manure management, and erosion and sediment plans. There are 33,600 farms in Pennsylvania's portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and DEP inspected less than two percent of them in 2014.

Conservation districts conducting inspections receive funding from DEP to support Bay technician staff and will inspect a minimum of 50 farms annually, per full-time person. DEP will inspect farms in counties where conservation districts declined to do it.

With one Bay technician, Brady Seeley, and conservation technician Jared McIntire, Cumberland County has a five-year schedule for inspections and thinks it will conduct more than the 50 required annually.

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After photo showing a heavy use area on a Cumberland County farm after a concrete manure storage pit was installed for liquid dairy manure. Photo by Mike Lubinsky/Cumberland County Chesapeake Bay Engineer.

One landowner with multiple, separate parcels of land could count as multiple inspections, as each agricultural operation is inspected separately.

Eight of first nine inspections in Cumberland County lacked manure management plans and three didn't have erosion and sediment plans. Goshorn said manure management plans have already been written for two of those farms.

In addition to checking that the farms have the required plans, inspectors may observe water quality issues. They may ask permission to walk around a property, but landowners are under no obligation to grant permission.

Cumberland County was one of four counties that helped shape the inspection process by participating in the pilot program. CCCD and DEP staff visited two farms in the county. "We wanted to see how it works," Goshorn says. "We figured it would be a better way of getting in touch with the farmers and maybe getting more practices involved if we were actually doing the inspections."

"We thought, if we aren't part of the process we can't have an impact down the road," board chairman Wolf adds. "As part of the pilot we made it better for other counties going out to do inspections because we have two people who have agriculture backgrounds (Seeley and McIntire) who could go out and relate, get a sense of how to make this work, and then go back to DEP and say, 'tweak it this way and everybody else will be better off'."

Seeley grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Pennsylvania, has a bachelor's degree in environmental resource management, and has been with CCCD for over two years. McIntire majored at Penn State University in agri-business management, manages a commercial turkey operation, and has been with CCCD for almost three years.

"We have a better rapport at the county level with our farming community than DEP does," says county commissioner Jim Hertzler, who also sits on the CCCD board. "In order for it to work and encourage a cooperative effort with respect to compliance, we prefer to work with our farmers as opposed to telling them 'you are going to jail' or 'we're going to give you a big fine if you don't do something.' To actually get these practices implemented is what the goal should be as opposed to handing out penalties or punishment."

Goshorn says conservation districts that passed on doing inspections, "Don't want to wear the black hat and be the bad guys. They said they were formed to provide technical assistance to the farming community. We feel things have changed over the years."

Seeley says the CCCD can do both. "You can go out and tell the farmer he is in violation and then it's not hard in the next sentence to tell the farmer 'let us help you get those plans.' There really is no excuse to not be regulating and technical. You are already there having the conversation."

The district is able to offer some financial help. "The board has set aside money for developing these plans," chairman Wolf adds. "It's unique for a conservation district to do that." Cost share on erosion and sediment plans splits the cost with a cap of $1,000 per farmer, and $30,000 is available overall.

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Jared McIntire and Brady Seeley. Photos courtesy Cumberland County Conservation District.

"The reason we want to try to get ahead is hopefully we will have farmers coming to us volunteering to do these inspections," Seeley says. The CCCD got a dozen calls from its letter introducing the program. Farmers can schedule an appointment to have their plans reviewed.

One Amish farmer called to say he didn't have either plan. "That's really nice," McIntire says. "We get these guys not afraid to call us and say 'I don't have the plan' and then we can start the conversation with them to get the ball rolling. 'Do you need us to come out there?' 'Can you come to one of our workshops?' 'Do we need to turn it over to the private sector because time is tight with you'?" 

The Cumberland County Conservation District believes it can maintain its working relationships with farmers, by having familiar faces like Seeley and McIntire work through the inspection process with them, while advancing Pennsylvania's clean water efforts in challenging times.

"This is happening at a time in this county when ag prices are low, milk prices are low," board chairman Wilbur Wolf says. "We had the drought. Corn prices and yields are down. We're going out and talking to these farmers in a serious financial situation and we're getting positive responses."

Conservation districts participating in the farm inspection program are in Adams, Bedford, Berks, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Chester, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Cumberland, Fulton, Huntingdon, Indiana (covered in agreement with Cambria), Juniata, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, and Wyoming counties.

The nine counties that declined to participate are Bradford, Cameron, Dauphin, Franklin, Luzerne, Northumberland, Perry, Tioga, and York counties. 

Cameron, Somerset, and Wayne counties have a small portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and will be inspected by DEP personnel.

—B.J. Small, CBF's Pennsylvania Media and Communications Coordinator


Little Fish, Big Impact

 

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Menhaden are the fuel of the Bay's food web, providing critical sustenance to other Bay species like rockfish. Graphic courtesy of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Small, silvery, and packed with nutritional might, menhaden have long been thought of as "the most important fish in the sea." And the other week, they once again came to the forefront of fisheries management and Chesapeake conservation.

On October 26, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which manages the coast-wide catch of menhaden and 23 other migratory fish species, met in Bar Harbor, Maine, to revisit menhaden's harvest cap for next year

Menhaden are a fundamental link in the Bay's food web, serving as valuable sustenance for striped bass and many other important fish, marine mammal, and seabird species. Their health directly affects the health of the entire ecosystem. Yet the menhaden population has faced a long history of large-scale industrial fishing and historic low abundance in recent years.

We sat down with Bill Goldsborough, CBF's Fisheries Director and former ASMFC Commissioner, to get a better understanding of what happened at the meeting, and what it means for the fate of this all-important fish.

 

What happened in October?
ASMFC took up the issue of what the menhaden quota should be for 2017 after delaying the decision at its August meeting. A compromise was reached to increase the current harvest cap by 6.5 percent, bringing the menhaden catch limit up to 200,000 tons. That number was judged to be the middle ground among nine different options considered in August, ranging from keeping the status quo all the way up to increasing the catch limit by 20 percent. This quota is only for one year before the new management plan (or Amendment Three) comes into place in 2018.

 

What does this mean?

It's disappointing. With menhaden still not abundant throughout their geographic range and continued concerns about recruitment in the Bay, staying the course would have helped ensure a healthier menhaden population for all stakeholders—the reduction industry, bait fishermen, anglers, conservationists, etc.

What's more, we're not being consistent with the objective that the ASMFC has had for 15 years to account for menhaden's ecological role, something the commission is planning to do in 2018 by adopting "Ecological Reference Points" (ERPs) under Amendment Three. (ERPs are guardrails for managing the harvest while leaving enough menhaden in the water for the ecosystem.) The bottom line is there was too much political pressure to have an increase right now.

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A hungry osprey with his menhaden lunch. Photo by iStock.

Why are menhaden so important?
Menhaden are the fuel of the food web, and we control the flow. Too low and we have problems with striped bass nutrition, diseases, mortality, and so forth. For a predator like striped bass that depends a lot on menhaden, if there are not enough menhaden available, they will shift to something else that's probably not as nutritious. They might shift to blue crabs—is that better for the bigger picture? It's a tradeoff between management objectives. You have to think in an ecosystem-sense rather than a single-species context for ecologically important fish like menhaden. It's important to remember that leaving menhaden in the water to be eaten satisfies an important management objective to keep the ecosystem healthy. You get incredible value from leaving these fish in the water.

What's next?
ASMFC will develop a new menhaden management plan (Amendment Three) for 2018 based on public comment from all stakeholders as well as scientific data and expertise.

This new plan will give us ecological reference points, and it will give us a new framework for allocating the menhaden catch quota among the states, among the industries, and so on. Right now it's done by state—each state gets a certain percentage of menhaden catch, and Virginia gets 85 percent out of the entire coast, while some states get less than one percent

One type of ecological reference point that CBF and many other groups support would maintain at least 75 percent of the virgin biomass [how many fish would be in a natural system before any harvesting] in the water for the health of the ecosystem.

The first public comment phase on the new menhaden management plan ends January 4, 2017. Stay tuned for how you can take action for the Bay and "the most important fish in the sea"!

This year is a big year for you. You're retiring as CBF's Director of Fisheries next month after 38 years and leaving ASMFC after more than 18 years on the commission. What has been the biggest milestone for you, particularly in your time with ASMFC?
Actually getting a quota on menhaden with Amendment Two was the biggest milestone that I was part of at ASMFC. And if Amendment Three proceeds the way it's supposed to, that will probably supersede Amendment Two as a milestone.

Before Amendment Two, there was no limit on the catch of this ecologically critical fish. No limit! And it was the biggest fishery on the East Coast, and annually in the top five nationwide—West Coast, Gulf Coast, Alaska. That's high volume! Getting a quota set at a conservative level—20 percent below what it had been—was probably the biggest milestone for me.

There's been a whole lot more focus on the importance of forage fish in general in recent years, and I think a lot of that derives from the two decades that we've been working on menhaden.

Over the next few weeks, ASMFC is holding public hearings about its revised menhaden management plan. Stand up for this important fish at one of the public hearings in Maryland, Virginia, and other coastal states. Click here for the full list of hearings.

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

Learn more about menhaden and why they are so important at our next Blue Planet Forum.