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April 2015
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June 2015

Photo of the Week: I Speak for the Trees!

Trees"I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees!" My son, Aaron Doster-Dunyon (age 2), with his PopPop, Sterling Willis, this past weekend while camping at the Naval Station Annapolis. Thank you for all you do! 

—Jennifer Dunyon

 

As Dr. Seuss' Lorax would say: LET'S ALL SPEAK FOR THE TREES! Annapolitans, this week is your chance to tell the Annapolis City Council to invest in a clean, healthy, prosperous future for our city by passing a strong Forest Conservation Act. 

Trees are the backbone of our communities. They help filter our local waters, increase property values, reduce energy costs, provide clean air and wildlife habitat, and improve public health. AND they're beautiful!

Click here to take action and speak for the trees. 

 


The Return of the #BaySelfie

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Today is Memorial Day—the unofficial start of summer! And what better way to celebrate than by sharing your #BaySelfie with us. Last summer, more than 150 people shared their love of the Bay and its rivers and streams through these "selfies." And we couldn't get enough of 'em! 

A happy dog and his owner swimming the mouth of Dividing Creek. Friends camping at Janes Island State Park. A father-daughter duo fishing for white perch on an unusually cool Saturday morning in July. These were just a few of the pics that your fellow water lovers shared with us last summer. 

Now it's your turn! Click here to submit your own #BaySelfie.

These photos of the extraordinary people and places along the waters we all love remind us why we do the work that we do. Our memories of these moments—and those to come—are worth fighting for. And with your help, that's what CBF is doing every day. 

Now get out there and enjoy it . . . 

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media


New Challenges AND New Optimism for the Fuel of the Food Web

OspreyWithMenhaden2Osprey like this one above heavily rely on nutrient-rich menhaden, often called "the most important fish in the sea." Photo by iStock.

Once more those small, silvery, nutrient-rich fish called menhaden have taken center stage in fisheries management and Chesapeake conservation. On May 5, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which manages the coast-wide catch of menhaden and 23 other migratory fish species, met in Alexandria, Va., to revisit the way menhaden are managed. Specifically they met to discuss raising the harvest quota for menhaden after a recent stock assessment found an increase in biomass (the total weight of the population), but a decrease in abundance (the actual number of fish).

Often dubbed "the most important fish in the sea," menhaden are a fundamental link in the Bay's food web, serving as valuable sustenance for striped bass and many other fish, marine mammal, and seabird species. Their health directly affects the health of the entire ecosystem. 

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

  1. What happened at the meeting earlier this month?
    The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to increase the current cap on menhaden harvest by 10 percent for both 2015 and 2016. It was a good management decision, because stakeholders on both sides seemed to be satisfied, but it was not a great conservation decision. CBF had urged ASMFC not to increase harvest quotas until measures were taken to ensure menhaden's ecological role in the Bay and beyond was protected.

    That said, a really good thing for menhaden conservation came out of this meeting. ASMFC initiated the process to amend the management plan for menhaden. With the amended plan, they are once and for all committing to developing ecological reference points (guidelines for optimal population levels and allowable fishing rates). The reference points we have right now are based on single-species management, designed to only account for the health and survival of menhaden alone, not the ecosystem as a whole. They do not fully account for menhaden's ecological value as an important forage fish that other marine creatures depend upon for food. Ecological reference points will effectively be more conservative guidelines for the fishery that will leave more menhaden in the water for the striped bass, osprey, and all the rest of the species in the ecosystem that depend on menhaden. This is huge . . . we've never had this level of commitment to develop and adopt ecological reference points. 

  2. How did ASMFC come to this decision?
    Graph
    The most recent menhaden stock assessment found an increase in biomass (the total weight of the menhaden population), but a decrease in abundance (the actual number of fish).

    Five years ago, a menhaden stock assessment found that we had a depleted stock of menhaden, and there had been a history of overfishing. This spurred ASMFC to establish a catch quota (the first time ever in the history of menhaden management) and to set it at a level 20 percent below recent harvests, beginning in 2013.

    Now we have a new assessment that's just come out. It's good science and much more comprehensive, but it includes some different assumptions. One in particular assumes there is a mass of larger, older menhaden in northern waters off the coast of New England that are outside the range of the fishery (large menhaden that are not often caught in the fishery but that have been seen in surveys done by northern states). The menhaden fishery is concentrated in the mid-Atlantic, especially in and around Chesapeake Bay. The net effect of these large, old menhaden is to increase the biomass estimate over what we thought from the last assessment. 

  3. So menhaden that reside outside the area where people actually fish are boosting the biomass number?
    Exactly. To me, the most insidious thing that I don't think we're paying enough attention to is that as a result of this finding of increased biomass, the fishing industry is saying that we can catch more fish, but a lot of the fish are outside the area where fishing occurs. We're increasing the catch in the area where we don't have that higher biomass. And, according to this latest assessment, in an area where there is actually a lower abundance of menhaden—fewer numbers of fish in the population. In fact, it's the lowest abundance in the 60-year history of assessing the menhaden population, according to this new model. So the assessment does show higher biomass, but it also shows low abundance. The way to think of it is there are relatively more big, old fish, but not a lot of fish total. And numbers of prey are what's important to predators like striped bass. So this is a dynamic that we have to come to grips with.

  4. What's next for menhaden?
    We have to stay on top of the process that will play out through 2016. The amended management plan won't take effect until the 2017 fishing season. This is going to be a long, methodical process. We want to get it right this time. 

  5. 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 they're not a lot of 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? So 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. One industry representative calling for a catch increase at a recent ASMFC meeting said, "Don't leave these fish in the water to die!" That short-sighted statement ignores the fact that leaving menhaden in the water to be eaten satisfies an important management objective to keep the ecosystem healthyYou get incredible value from leaving these fish in the water.

For the sake of the striped bass and the osprey, the bluefish and the bald eagle that rely on these small, but all-important fish, we are pleased that ASMFC will be taking the long view and considering the health of the broader ecosystem when amending the menhaden management plan. After all, a healthy menhaden population means a healthier Chesapeake Bay. 

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

Stay tuned for updates on this important fish and all the other Chesapeake species it supports by signing up for our e-newsletter.


Photo of the Week: The Golden Hour

11304297_10153253341645336_754126976_nThe view from Kent Island last week.

The Bay is our future. I volunteer and teach my five-year-old son the importance of not littering and picking up other people's trash because it could harm the Bay ecosystem and its animals.

Living on the Shore you really appreciate the beauty of the Bay. Where I grew up in Prince George's County all I thought was that the Bay was dirtyI never wanted to go near it much less swim in it. I don't want it to be like that for future generations. Everyone should be able to enjoy the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay. 

—Krystle Chick

Ensure that Krystle, her son, and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint! 

Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's E-Communications Manager, 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!


Middle School Mural Combines Art and Science to Study the Bay

SSSAS Bay Mural 2Photos by Susan Hamon.

As you enter the science wing at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes (SSSAS) Middle School in Alexandria, Va., put on your waders, because you're about to take a tour of the Chesapeake Bay. The walls surrounding the classrooms are enveloped by a hand-painted mural of the Bay that also serves as a teaching tool. Water, animals, marsh, birds, and many other inhabitants are seen swimming and soaring in the place they call home. But this mural isn't just a painting. It's an interactive, 3D display where students add their own work, inspired by both art and science.

The mural was created in the summer of 2014 as a collaboration between Science Teacher Robert Davis and Visual Arts Teachers Jean Lynch and Joey Wade. First, Mr. Davis took Ms. Lynch on a tour of the Bay to provide the scientific background. "I came back loaded with sketches, photos, examples of shells, feathers, plant material, sand, etc.," said Ms. Lynch. She then created a scale model, studies, and elevations, which Mr. Wade, a professional scenic designer and artist, used to paint the design on the walls with help from Science Teacher Alexandra Chabolla.

SSSAS Bay Mural 4The mural shows different habitats in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, such as marshes, pine forests, grass beds, open waters, and mud flats. In science class, students learn about these habitats and create artistic models of the land animals, birds, and aquatic animals that live there, to attach to the mural. By incorporating student work, the mural becomes a "living project," growing and changing during the year.

Students learn about the unique features of the Bay and how all elements work together to create this important part of our region. The mural landscape includes inlets, water features, islands, and specific trees and grasses. "The colors are very specific to the Bay area, as it is a freshwater-meeting-seawater environment," said Ms. Lynch. The horizon of the mural matches up with the surface of several aquariums that are are visible from the hallway, creating an underwater perspective.

The mural is used to enhance Middle School science lessons that focus on Chesapeake Bay ecosystems. Additionally, SSSAS Middle School students have the opportunity to visit the bay during a three-day mini-course each spring, and all eighth grade students go on a day-long field trip to the bay to conduct water-quality monitoring and wildlife counts.

For schools that would like to do a similar project, Mr. Davis said, "Think big. Visit the Bay and take lots of pictures and make sketches. Incorporate the natural features of the building so that they mimic the habitats of the Bay. For example, our skylights are like aviaries for birds such as eagles, ospreys, and pelicans flying above the Bay." The project was inspired by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's surroundings. "On the islands there is no clear line between inside and outside, and all of the CBF buildings are like museums," Mr. Davis said. "They all have beautiful art on all their walls. We wanted to do something similar."

The project received great support from Charlotte Riggs, Middle School director and Visual Arts Department chair, and from the SSSAS buildings and grounds department. Next, the school hopes to extend the mural—down the hall and down the stairs—to include a crab shanty and "treasure chest" for the lost-and-found.

—Linda Stratton
St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School

Learn more about our CBF outdoor, educational experiences to get your students learning outside!

SSSAS Bay Mural 3


Our New Brock Center in VA Goes off Power, Water Grids

Brock-InfographicThe following first appeared in the Bay Journal.

Last November, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation "unplugged" the new Brock Environmental Center from the power grid as part of the center's grand opening festivities in Virginia Beach. It was admittedly a purely symbolic gesture—the building remains hooked to the local electric utility.

But we wanted to declare to the world our intention to operate this cutting-edge center using only onsite renewable energy.

Last month, the CBF retired the symbolic plug and actually began walking the talk at the Brock Center. On April 1, we cranked the center's electric meter back to zero and began a yearlong effort to demonstrate that the building's solar panels and wind turbines can produce all of the electricity the building needs for a solid year.

Certainly, when it is cloudy, with no wind, the center likely will have to draw some power from the local grid. But on sunny, breezy days—and there are lots of them in Virginia Beach—the center will produce more electricity than it needs, sending the excess juice back to the grid. The goal at the end of the 12 months: net-zero energy.

We're also aiming to make the Brock Center net-zero water. The center employs two 1,700-gallon cisterns to collect rainwater. It is cleaned and stored on site for all of the center's drinking, washing and cooking needs. The Brock Center is the first commercial building in the continental United States permitted to treat and use rainwater as drinking water. As with energy, the foundations' goal is to demonstrate that we can be water-independent.

"We started the yearlong clock at 12:01 a.m. April 1," said CBF's Hampton Roads Director Christy Everett. "We intend to operate the center for the next 12 months using no more power than what the sun and wind generate and no more water than what rain provides. That will be an enormous challenge, and we know we may encounter some glitches along the way. We're attempting something that few others have ever done."

I invite everyone to join the CBF on this journey to zero impact. You can follow the progress of the first year challenge by visiting the Brock Center's online "dashboard," a real-time gauge of the building's energy and water use. The dashboard can be seen at cbf.org/brockdashboard.

What the dashboard won't show you are the many other features that make me believe the Brock Center is the greenest and smartest building in the world. Some of them include:

  • No-flush, composting toilets eliminate water use and produce no sewage waste.
  • Gray water from the center's sinks and showers goes into bio-retention gardens to be absorbed by native plants.
  • Rain gardens, sandy soils and permeable surfaces produce zero polluted runoff, eliminating harm to the nearby Lynnhaven River and Chesapeake Bay.
  • Geothermal wells, southern exposures, and windows and doors open wide to catch Bay breezes and help heat and cool the building naturally.
  • Super-efficient insulation and energy-conserving lights and appliances help the Brock Center use 80 percent less energy than office buildings of comparable size.
  • Toxic-free building materials result in a clean, healthy work environment.

Finally, we have used recycled and salvaged materials throughout the center. The wood from old bleachers, the flooring from an old school gym, the sinks and cabinets and desktops retrieved from office buildings slated for demolition are all given a new lease on life rather than being thrown away, wherever "away" is.

We want the Brock Center to achieve Living Building Challenge certification, a set of super-tough environmental criteria developed by the International Living Future Institute. Only a handful of buildings around the world have successfully done so.

We also have a larger, more visionary goal for the Brock Environmental Center. We hope the center can become an international model for sustainable building, a practical demonstration that we can live and work in true harmony with nature. Zero environmental impact is possible, and it's doable, right now, even in especially sensitive regions like the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

If we can demonstrate that buildings like the Brock Environmental Center can help save the Bay, perhaps others around the nation and the world will also be inspired to take the Living Building Challenge . . . and help save the planet.

—Will Baker, CBF President

Although the Brock Center is open for business, your support is critically needed to cover final construction costs and to help jump-start our environmental education and community outreach programs. Right now, The Cabell Foundation is matching 50 percent of every dollar donated toward the Brock Environmental Center. Please make a gift today and be a part of this remarkable project!


Susquehanna River: Making the Case for Impairment

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A smallmouth bass was found in the Susquehanna River with a large cancerous tumor. Photo by John Arway.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) image on May 4 of a smallmouth bass with a significant malignant tumor on its lip, left anglers and those who care about water quality speechless.

The fish was caught in November of last year on the Susquehanna River near Duncannon, PA. The PFBC said it is the first time this type of cancer was found on a smallmouth bass in the Commonwealth.

The discovery is another find that illustrates a world-class fishery is suffering.

Anglers first reported diseased and dying smallmouth bass in the river in 2005. Young-of-the-year and adult bass continue to bear sores and lesions, and the population continues to plummet. Researchers have also been finding intersex fish—adult male bass with female eggs in their testes—since the early 2000s.

Now, a fish with cancer.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), the PFBC and others believe that 98 miles of the lower Susquehanna River must be declared impaired, so that the timeline for its recovery can begin. The Susquehanna provides half of the fresh water that flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has resisted recommending an impaired listing of the river, citing a lack of definitive scientific evidence of the source and cause of the smallmouth bass problem.

CBF's report Angling for Healthier Rivers, concluded that Commonwealth smallmouth bass are threatened by a "perfect storm" of high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, pesticides, parasites, and hormones in animal and human waste. They also face endocrine disrupting chemicals found in certain herbicides, cosmetics, detergents and medicines.

According to DEP, sediment and nutrient pollution significantly damage 19,000 miles of Pennsylvania's rivers and streams, including those which drain into the Susquehanna. Agriculture is the largest source.

But, there is a plan.

In 2010, EPA established science-based limits on the pollution fouling the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. States also developed individual plans to achieve those limits and committed to two-year milestones that outline the actions they will take to achieve success. EPA promised consequences for failure. Together, the limits, plans, and milestones make up the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

Pennsylvania must accelerate progress if it is to have 60 percent of the pollution reduction practices in place by 2017 and 100 percent by 2025. The Commonwealth's nitrogen and sediment pollution reduction commitments from agriculture and urban polluted runoff are considerably off-track. Pennsylvania appears to be on track to meet its phosphorus reduction goal.

It is imperative that the Commonwealth achieve the pollution reduction goals in the Clean Water Blueprint. A healthy Chesapeake Bay does not exist without a healthy Susquehanna flowing into it.

CBF makes the analogy of smallmouth bass and pollution in the Susquehanna to that of canaries in the coal mines. Caged canaries killed by otherwise undetectable deadly gas, were harbingers of a treacherous environment and miners knew to get out.

CBF and others concerned about the water quality of the Susquehanna and the fishery, would hope that significant scientific data that triggers river impairment and improvement, catches up to the power of images of smallmouth bass with open sores and tumors.

Reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution and achieving the goals in the Clean Water Blueprint will not solve the smallmouth bass issue, but doing so will improve water quality and reduce at least one source of stress on the fishery. It will also result in a $6.2 billion return on investment for the Commonwealth.

The smallmouth bass issue is a physical manifestation of the challenges many of Pennsylvania's rivers and streams face. Restoring and protecting our waters will have meaningful impacts to our economy, health, and quality of life.

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

Are you a resident of Pennsylvania? Make your voice heard, and tell your County Commissioners to pass a resolution saying Clean Water Counts in Pennsylvania!


Postcards from Paradise

5"Remember the excitement you felt, the love, and all the great energy. Take these and incorporate them into your teaching. And don't ever forget these experiences." That's what one teacher wrote to herself in a postcard from a CBF Chesapeake Classrooms experience last year.

Every summer, hundreds of teachers, principals, and administrators participate in a CBF five-day professional development immersion course along the Bay and its rivers and streams. In between testing water quality, setting crab pots, and learning lessons to bring back to the classroom, participants write and illustrate colorful postcards to themselves, reminding their future selves of the lessons learned and moments shared out on the Bay. 

1Last year, these were some of the meaningful anecdotes that hit teachers' mailboxes across the watershed:

"I will never forget coming eyeball to eyeball with tiny menhaden fish . . . written from the awesome crows nest on Fox Island."

"As with every trip, I always remember the calmness of the water, the sunsets, and the incredible starry nights."

"Dear Laura, Thank you for giving me this experience. This trip with CBF reminded me that I love science and all things connected to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed . . . don't forget to sign up next year."

"Every creature/living organism in and out of the bay is connected."

" . . . when we can help others to love the Bay, their education will become more meaningful and we will act on the love in our hearts."

Want to take home a meaningful Chesapeake experience like the ones above? We're still taking applications! Click here to sign up for this coming summer.

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

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Photo of the Week: And the Winners Are . . .

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This Viewers' Choice winner captures the incredible image of a humpback whale breaching at the mouth of the Chesapeake. Photo by Brian Lockwood.

The above was just one of the stunners that took our breath away in this year's Save the Bay Photo Contest. In all, there were more than 1,200 extraordinary photos submitted from across the watershedfrom the undulating Blue Ridge Mountains to the salty tidewater marshes. 

Each photographwhether it be a dramatic yellow-crowned night heron in profile, or kids reveling in the afterglow of a summer sunsetcaptured a unique love for the streams, rivers, and Bay that many of us call home. Simply put, these images inspire us. 

Click here to the view all five winners in this year's Save the Bay Photo Contest. You'll be glad you did.

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media


Photo of the Week: A Favorite Destination

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I grew up in a boating family with the Chesapeake Bay being a favorite destination, in particular the St. Michael's and Kent Island area. Being able to move here as an adult has been a dream come true.

The Bay represents wonderful memories of crabbing, fishing, and family time. The tradition continues with our grown children and extended families. All of us are very lucky indeed to have the Chesapeake Bay to enjoy.

—Cindy Williams Sigmon

Ensure that Cindy and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint! 

Do you have a favorite Bay 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!