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 . . .

Clammer1
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!


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.

IStock_000013646856small_osprey & menhaden
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!


Photo of the Week: Corrotoman Cormorants

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This picture was taken at the mouth of the Corrotoman River where it empties into the Rappahannock River. We were returning home from fishing for stripers when we passed the marker with the Double-crested Cormorants getting ready to settle in for the night.

—Kathy Haurand

Ensure that Kathy 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!


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

 


CBF Building Exhibits a Resilient Future

The following first appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.

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CBF's Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, VA was built with climate change in mind. Photo by Chris Gorri/CBF Staff.

This year's rough weather has battered Hampton Roads. It's not just the summer's brutal heat wave. It's the deluge of seven inches of rain that fell in just two hours in July, the high waters that surrounded buildings when Hurricane Hermine hit over Labor Day, and the 13 inches of rain that fell overnight in late September, or the massive amounts of rain that accompanied Hurricane Matthew.

Newscasts and the newspaper have been filled with images of water lapping around houses, submerged cars, and rowboats navigating flooded streets.

It's a window into the future.

But since opening nearly two years ago, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach has remained undamaged. Sometimes, even as rains fell and the winds howled, locals gathered there to watch storms roll in over the Lynnhaven River. They knew that the CBF building is climate-change ready, designed to be resilient in the face of the toughest weather.

"After a bad storm, community members visit the Brock Center to see how it weathered," said Brock Center Manager Chris Gorri. "Severe weather becomes a teachable moment. People ask questions about the wind turbines or want to see how high the water is on the Lynnhaven River." Some want to learn how they can adapt their own homes to better cope with recurrent flooding.

Designed and built to withstand the effects some of the worst weather in the world, the center is a model for a region increasingly at risk. According to Old Dominion University's Center for Sea Level Rise, sea levels have risen 14 inches in Hampton Roads since 1930. Low lying cities, rising waters, and sinking lands are why.

The Brock Center is ready. It is raised 14 feet above sea level, staying high and dry during flooding. Its windows can withstand a collision with a two-by-four hurled at 110 miles per hour. Its grounds are designed to eliminate runoff.

Gravel paths and permeable roadways and parking areas let water soak into the ground. The Brock Center's one-of-a-kind rainwater treatment system filters rain falling on the center's roof for use as drinking water.

The building is set far back from the river, with a wide sandy buffer of grasses and shrubs that absorbs storm surges.

In early October, Hurricane Matthew brought strong winds and up to 12 inches of rain in the region, inundating some roadways under several feet of water. Schools closed, power was out for days, and officials urged cutbacks on water usage because of stressed sewer systems.

At the Brock Center, that storm flipped over benches and knocked over a large sturdy sign. But the strongest flooding seen at Brock came a year earlier, as storms linked to Hurricane Joaquin sent water from the Lynnhaven River rushing knee-deep under the raised building. Neither storm damaged the building or its wind turbines.

The Brock Center also fights back against climate change with its residential wind turbines and solar panels, which produce far more energy than the building consumes and send clean excess energy to the grid. The center's energy conservation allows it to use 80 percent less energy than a typical office building of its size.

Thanks to these innovations, earlier this year the Brock Center achieved one of the toughest building standards in the world. Living Building Challenge certification from the International Living Future Institute requires a building to produce more energy than it uses over the course of 12 consecutive months and meet a host of other strict criteria.

As we increasingly grapple with the effects of climate change, the Brock Center shines brightly as a solution. Sustainability means more than just energy efficiency. It means being able to sustain the extremes nature can and will throw at us. With Brock, we're proving that we have a choice to raise the bar, reduce pollution, and adapt to climate change.

And, we can do it in comfort and beauty.

—Mary Tod Winchester, CBF's Vice President for Administration


Photo of the Week: So Many Things That We Love

IMG_1580At Suggetts Point in Warsaw, Virginia.

My husband and I live near the James River and have a place on the Rappahannock River. We are avid kayakers and participate in all forms of water fun. The tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay are where we spend most of our time, but we realize the health of the Bay is critical to the health of so many things that we love.

Education is the only way to ensure the Bay is there for our descendants.

—Amy Bram Sowers

Ensure that Amy, 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!


Cuidando los Ríos

DSC_0588Click here for the English translation of the following blog post.

Efraín Carcamo y sus tres hijos cruzan rocas en la orilla del río James en Richmond, buscando basura que la corriente dejó entre piedras y ramas. "Este lugar es un filtro enorme," dijo Carcamo. "Atrapa mucha basura."

La familia busca metódicamente, y usan palos para recoger latas de cerveza y botellas de plástico, depositándolas en bolsas de basura. Por años, Carcamo ha repetido esta rutina varias veces al mes. Es su campaña personal para limpiar el río.

Su interés por la naturaleza empezó desde niño, cuando vivía en una finca en la sombra del volcán San Vicente en El Salvador. Desde mudarse a los Estados Unidos en 1989, ha estado fascinado con los ríos que desembocan en la Bahía de Chesapeake. "Llegué aquí y vi la belleza de este lugar y me enamoré," dijo mientras veía los pozos cristalinos del río James.  

DSC_0592Para Carcamo, cuidar los ríos también es una terapia. "Todos tenemos seres queridos que han fallecido," dijo Carcamo, quien perdió familiares en la guerra en El Salvador. La esposa de Carcamo falleció en un accidente en el 2008. Desde entonces él encuentra paz en los ríos. "Regresé a la naturaleza," dijo. "Creo que tiene el poder de consolar el alma y de cambiar muchas cosas en la vida. Creo que tiene un poder terapéutico."

Como padre, Carcamo ha enseñado el respeto de la naturaleza a sus hijas Elysha, 13 y Emaya, 11, y su hijo Eljah, 8. En los senderos de Belle Isle los niños buscan ranas y señalan donde una vez vieron un castor enorme. "Les enseño cuidar el medio ambiente," dijo Carcamo. "Ellos exploran, disfrutan, y ven con quienes comparten este planeta, no sólo personas, pero animales que debemos cuidar."

Carcamo también ha inspirado a más personas que quieren cuidar el río. "He conocido a mucha gente de todas las clases de la sociedad y todas las razas," dijo. Si le preguntan porque está limpiando, Carcamo explica que la basura daña los ríos y los animales. "Lo que digo les impacta … Regresan con sus bolsas de basura y limpian," dijo Carcamo. "Cuando se dan cuenta que alguien lo está haciendo les anima y ellos mismos lo hacen. Se siente bien."

—Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

 

 

 


Healing Waters

Haz clic aquí para la versión en Español.

Efrain Carcamo and his three children hop across boulders along the James River in Richmond, hunting litter lodged by the current among rocks and branches. "This place is like a huge filter," Carcamo says. "It traps a lot of trash."

The family moves methodically, using sticks hardened in the sun to flick beer cans and plastic bottles into trash bags. It's a routine Carcamo has repeated several times a month for years, his personal effort to clean up the river.

EfrainHis connection with nature began during his childhood growing up on a farm in the shadow of the San Vicente volcano in El Salvador. Since moving to the United States as a teenager in 1989, he's been drawn to the rivers and streams that flow to the Bay. "I came up here and saw the beauty of this place, and I fell in love with it," he said, standing alongside the river's sun-splashed pools.

For Carcamo, healing the waters is part therapy. "We all have people who we love who have passed away," he said, listing family members killed in El Salvador's Civil War. Since losing his wife to an accident in 2008, the James River has been a source of peace. "I went back to nature," he said. "I truly believe it has the power to comfort your soul and for you to change your approach to a lot of things in life. I believe that it has therapeutic power."

A single father, he has passed on his love of nature to his daughters, Elysha, 13, and Emaya, 11, and his son Eljah, 8. Walking the trails of Belle Isle, the kids chase tiny frogs and eagerly point out where they once spotted a giant beaver. "I teach them to appreciate the environment," Carcamo said. "They get to explore, enjoy, and see who they share this planet with, not just other humans, but other animals that they need to take care of."

DSC_0592Others on the river are often inspired to action after seeing Carcamo. "I meet a lot of people from different backgrounds out here, from all levels of society, different races," he says. If they ask why he cleans up, Carcamo explains how litter damages rivers, how trash harms wildlife, and how important waterways are to everyone. "Somehow, they are affected by what I tell them . . . They bring their trash bags. They pick up," Carcamo said. "When they realize there is someone doing it, they get courage, and they start doing it themselves. That feels good."

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

Carcamo recently volunteered for his first CBF cleanup at Día de la Bahía, the first Clean the Bay Day event promoted in both Spanish and English. Click here to learn more about this special event where more than 50 volunteers picked up about 36 bags full of trash and debris along the James River.