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!


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

 


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.

 


Photo of the Week: Tangier Crab Shacks

Crab Shacks
This photo of Tangier's crab shacks was taken in mid September.

My husband and I are New Englanders and both grew up near working boatyards. My Dad was a commercial lobster fisherman. We moved to the Eastern Shore of Virginia two years ago. We have been to Tangier Island a couple times.

Seeing the watermen of Tangier brings back so many memories of my childhood. We love the gritty appearance of the island's crab shacks. The hard work and the love of the Bay is evident as you walk through the community. Life must be difficult for these islanders, but they will stay there as long as Mother Nature is kind.  

—Lisa Gurney, Onancock, Virginia 

Ensure that Lisa, her husband, 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 Forgotten Fish

Menhaden photo from EPR
Despite their critical link in the food web, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission raised the menhaden catch quota this week. Photo by CBF Staff.

They might not be a common feature on dinner plates, but menhaden are often called "the most important fish in the sea." A small, oily fish packed with nutritional value, menhaden are a critical link in the marine food web. Valuable fish like rockfish rely heavily on menhaden as do whales, osprey, and other marine mammals and seabirds. Despite their critical role in the Bay's ecology, menhaden face an uncertain future.

In 2012, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission cut the menhaden catch quota by 20 percent. Just last year the quota was raised 10 percent, and this week, another 6.5 percent.

As with all fisheries management, science should be at the foundation in all decision making. And with a fishery as critical as menhaden, managing the long-term sustainability of the species should include considerations for their ecological role in addition to the economic value. With the Atlantic menhaden population at eight percent of historic levels and the science still out on taking their ecological value fully into account, now is not the time to increase the quota even further.

Saving the bay involves not only cleaning the water but ensuring the wildlife that depends on it are thriving. With the full implementation of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, and responsible, science-based fisheries management, we can leave a healthy Chesapeake Bay to future generations.

This Week in the Watershed: An Important Fish, Kicking Cans, and Spooky Forests

  • Advocates for menhaden, often dubbed "the most important fish in the sea," received unwelcome news, when it's quota was increased 6.5 percent. (Bay Journal) Bonus: CBF Statement
  • The push to address stormwater runoff in the Keystone state faces several major roadblocks. (Bay Journal)
  • The controversial Four Seasons development on Maryland's Kent Island is still facing legal resistance. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • We couldn't agree more with this editorial lampooning the decision to kick the can down the road on stormwater pollution reduction efforts in Maryland's Anne Arundel County. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • Wetland scientists are studying the increasing prevalence of what they call "ghost forests"—forests that have been overtaken by sea level rise. (Daily Press—VA)
  • Pennsylvania has plans for cleaning its rivers and streams, but some are questioning whether they are providing the necessary funding to bring their plans to life. (Lancaster Farming—PA)
  • With millions of dollars spent on stream restoration projects throughout the watershed, some are questioning the efficacy of the investment. (Bay Journal)

What's Happening around the Watershed?

October 29

  • Woodsboro, MD: Help CBF plant over 1,000 trees and shrubs along Israel Creek on a beef cattle farm in Frederick County. Approximately 5,000 feet of stream banks will be planted resulting in six acres of riparian buffer. Israel Creek is in the Monocacy River watershed which flows to the Potomac River then to the Chesapeake Bay. Click here to register!

November 3

  • Easton, MD: Oyster season is here, and whether or not you're a fan of eating the Bay's beloved bivalve, you've probably noticed a growing number of farmed oyster varieties available in local seafood markets and restaurants on the Eastern Shore. There's no denying that oyster farming, also known as "aquaculture," is on the rise in Maryland. Join us for a forum on this rising trend to learn more about oyster aquaculture from experts in the field. The event is free, but click here to register!

November 5

  • Smithsburg, MD: Join CBF at this recently completed stream restoration project on Little Antietam Creek and help us with the final stages of restoring the stream banks and floodplain. Volunteers will install live stakes consisting of willow cuttings as well as native trees and shrubs.  Learn about stream restoration techniques used throughout the region by touring this recently completed project and lend your hand for the final touches. Click here to register!

November 6

  • Annapolis, MD: Join approximately 25,000 runners and walkers crossing the 4.35-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge as part of the third annual Across the Bay 10k. The dual-span bridge doesn’t allow pedestrian traffic at any other time of the year, so this is a unique opportunity—and the view is amazing! CBF is an official charity partner of the Across the Bay 10K, and we are excited to offer Charity Bibs as part of that partnership. It's a win-win...you get a guaranteed entry into the race and help save the Bay with a donation to CBF! Get your charity bib now!

November 12

  • Virginia Beach, VA: Volunteer with CBF at Calypso Bar & Grill! We will be celebrating our favorite bivalve, the oyster, with an oyster roast. Volunteers are needed to help recycle the oyster shells, pour beverages, and take tickets. A portion of the proceeds will help CBF in its work to save the Bay! To volunteer, please email or call Tanner Council at tcouncil@cbf.org or 757-622-1964.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Getting to Know the James River

Haz clic aquí para la versión en Español.

Earlier this week, about 15 leaders in Central Virginia's Hispanic community and their families spent a sunny fall afternoon on the James River with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. For many of the participants, it was their first time in a boat on the river. They saw bald eagles and blue crabs, and discussed ways to get involved in restoring the James and the Chesapeake Bay.

Join us in our journey along the river through the following photos.

1
Petersburg Hispanic Liaison Director Aracely Harris holds a blue crab. "I learned about a lot of ways that we can help our environment," Harris said, adding that she hopes to continue to work with CBF in the future. "This will be a great opportunity for everybody."

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A group helps haul aboard a trawl net as part of a survey of life in the river. "You can see the joy of kids learning and exploring," said Oscar Contreras, a host at Radio Poder WBTK. "A lot of the Latino community is made up of young families."

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CBF Educator Eric Wiegandt (left) examines fish caught in the net while Efrain Carcamo and Alexander Trejo look on with their daughters. 

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Mary Trejo, 8, is amazed by a hogchoker fish caught in the trawl net.

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Roberto Trejo, 16, watches the James River from the CBF education vessel Baywatcher. "It's wonderful to see the beauty that we have in this area," Contreras said. "A lot of us just go to work, do our daily routines. But it's nice to enjoy what God has created."

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CBF staff and local community leaders gather at the end of a beautiful afternoon on the water. Latino families are one of the highest user groups of the James River, said Tanya González, executive director of the Sacred Heart Center. Earlier this year, her organization worked with CBF on the Día de la Bahía riverside litter cleanup. "It's a matter of connecting with people and offering them opportunities to plug in," González said.

—Text and photos by Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

 


Conociendo el Río James

Click here for the English translation of the following blog post.

Esta semana, 15 líderes locales de la comunidad Hispana pasaron una tarde soleada y hermosa en el río James con la Fundación Chesapeake Bay. Para muchos esta fue su primera vez en un barco en este río. Vieron águilas y cangrejos y hablaron de como todos podemos colaborar en limpiar el río James y la bahía de Chesapeake.

Acompáñanos en nuestro viaje por el río a través de las siguientes fotos. 

1
Aracely Harris, directora de la oficina de enlaces Hispanos de Petersburg, examina un cangrejo azul. “Aprendí mucho sobre cómo podemos ayudar el medio ambiente,” dijo Harris. Espera poder trabajar más con la fundación en el futuro. “Va a ser una gran oportunidad para todos.”

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Un grupo recoge una red para estudiar la vida acuática del río. “Ves la alegría de niños aprendiendo y explorando,” dijo Oscar Contreras, locutor en Radio Poder WBTK. “Hay muchas familias jóvenes en la comunidad Latina.”

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Eric Wiegandt de la Fundación examina peces mientras Efrain Carcamo y Alexander Trejo observan con sus hijas. 

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Mary Trejo, 8, se queda asombrada por un pez plano que pescaron en la red.

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Roberto Trejo, 16, observa el rio James desde el barco Baywatcher de la Fundación Chesapeake Bay. “Es maravilloso ver la belleza que tenemos en esta área,” dijo Contreras. “Muchos vamos al trabajo, pasamos por nuestras rutinas cotidianas. Pero es bueno ver lo que Dios ha creado.”

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La Fundación Chesapeake Bay y los líderes locales y familias se juntan después de pasar una buena tarde en el barco. Las familias Latinas usan mucho el río James, dijo Tanya González, directora del Centro Sagrado Corazón. Su organización trabajó con la Fundación hace unos meses para limpiar basura del río durante el Día de la Bahía. “Lo importante es conectar con gente y ofrecerles oportunidades para contribuir,” dijo González.

—Kenny Fletcher