Previous month:
December 2007
Next month:
February 2008

Donor of Island Education Left a Legacy

89507 In December, CBF lost a friend, trustee, and one-of-a-kind donor. In 1988, G.R. “Randy” Klinefelter made an unusual gift to CBF: a 250-acre island. In doing so, he and his family established CBF’s largest residential education center, Port Isobel, and opened up a treasured and historic piece of the Chesapeake to thousands of students, teachers, and citizens.

Named after his wife, Isobel, the former family getaway is a stone’s throw away from its sister island Tangier, home to one of the Chesapeake’s last remaining watermen’s communities. Over the past 20 years, students, teachers, and decision makers have traveled by boat to Port Isobel to explore the island’s marshes, beach, and woodlands. Often, visiting Tangier to learn about the nearly lost way of life is part of the trip.

The Klinefelter family owned the property for 30 years before donating it to CBF, and during that time instituted soil conservation measures and other environmental improvements. Residents of Ephrata, PA, the Klinefelters recognized the connection between their home state in the northern watershed and the downstream Chesapeake Bay.

Mr. Klinefelter served on the CBF Board of Trustees from 1988 to 1999.

Memorial gifts in his honor will be accepted at:

Randy Klinefelter Memorials
6 Herndon Ave.
Annapolis, MD 21403

I visited Port Isobel for the first time last fall. It's a beautiful place and a wonderful place to learn about our Bay. To see photos, visit our Flickr page. To share your own Flickr photos, tag them "CBF Port Isobel."

We'd love to hear your stories about Randy Klinefelter and your experiences at Port Isobel. Feel free to post your own comments below.

Save the Bay - Cool the Planet

Yes, it was snowing at the climate change rally in Annapolis but thank goodness we still have snow in the winter! From recent reports of melting ice caps and record warmth it may not be that way for long. But the snow did not deter hundreds of activists from rallying to urge Maryland legislators to pass one of the strongest climate change bills in the country: The Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) - requiring Maryland to institute programs that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020 and 90% by 2050. Incidently, reducing GH gases will not only help cool the planet but it will also assist in reducing nitrogen pollution to the Bay because nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas (it traps 300 times more solar energy than carbon dioxide). So passing the bill is a twofer, a win-win, a double dip.

"I biked to the rally in the snow with five other CBFers," said Donkey Dover. "The crowd was really pumped up even in the cold. Lots of good energy," said Dover.

Here's how you can help: contact your elected leaders in Maryland and tell them you support GWSA and that we can not delay in acting to stop climate change. The longer we wait, the greater the peril.

For more on climate change and the Chesapeake Bay, read our report: Climate Change and the Chesapeake Bay: Challenges, Impacts, and the Multiple Benefits of Agricultural Conservation Work

To find your legislator, visit:

Oysters Are In Our Blood

Photo: Tommy Leggettby guest blogger Tommy Leggett, oyster fisheries scientist in CBF's Virginia office.

The Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission recently supported the concept of boosting Maryland’s oyster fishery using aquaculture. The fact that the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population and fishery is hitting rock bottom is old news. The good news is that aquaculture can produce oysters for market and keep watermen on the water, all while the oysters are in the Bay providing habitat and filtering the water.

I was a commercial fisherman in Virginia for nearly 20 years and every fishery I participated in seemed to be going south. I would switch from one fishery to the other in order to make a living. The final frontier for me was patent tonging for hard clams, and I wasn’t long figuring out that that fishery would not last. Sure enough, there are only about 25 clammers left in Virginia who are actively working full time in the fishery.

In the early 1990s, I had the opportunity to listen to several seminars sponsored by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science on oyster aquaculture. The idea intrigued me, and before long I was investing a small amount of capital in oyster seed and grow-out gear. I also tried growing a few clams with my goal being to eventually get out of the wild fishery and direct all of my efforts in the shellfish aquaculture industry.

Photo: Building an oyster reef I was well on my way to becoming a successful full-time shellfish grower when I had the opportunity to go to work for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) doing environmental education and oyster restoration. For the last 8 years now, I have been operating an oyster farm for CBF and have produced nearly 6 million adult cultchless oysters (grown from spat independent of a substrate, as opposed to spat on shell, which we also grow at CBF) that were planted for restoration but could have been sold. We are now working with the oyster industry to demonstrate the feasibility of spat on shell production by watermen and large growers for the market production of oysters. Meanwhile, I still have my own small oyster farm (separate from my work with CBF) and grow approximately 100,000 oysters per year for sale to local and out-of-state restaurants.

The return on investment isn’t too shabby, either. Consider the following two alternatives, each of which nets $1,250:

      • Catching 15,000 wild oysters (50 bushels) with hand tongs
      • Growing 5,000 oysters (16 bushels) in cages or floats

Virginia has long been practicing oyster aquaculture, first on private leases where leaseholders would purchase wild oyster seed, and later with the use of cages, bags and trays, using hatchery-produced seed to grow oysters for the half-shell trade. Historically, Virginia has produced more oysters from private leases than from its public oyster grounds, demonstrating that the private sector is better suited than state government to produce oysters for commercial harvest. (Oyster production on private grounds started in the mid-1800s.)

Could oyster farming one day be viable in Maryland? I think so. Of course, some major changes would have to occur. The laws and regulations governing leasing Bay bottom would have to be updated, and a more streamlined permitting process would have to be developed.  But I think what’s most important is that our watermen remain key players in the industry. Yes, they would have to adapt to a business that is more like farming than harvesting a wild resource. These changes may be significant, but they are not impossible to overcome.

For those of us who work the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, oysters are in our blood, and it would be a great thing to see more watermen once again be able to pass the fruits of their labor on to future generations. 

I believe the future is bright for oyster aquaculture. It requires some adjustments in the thinking of watermen, but the fact is, oyster farming will keep watermen on the water producing Chesapeake Bay oysters. Our Bay has changed over the centuries and it continues to change. Watermen should consider changing as well if they want to continue working on the Bay. Will it be easy? Of course not, but nothing worth having ever comes easy, whether it be 15,000 wild-caught oysters or 5000 oysters grown in cages.

Think about it!

This Guy Speaks for the Fish

Photo: Bill Goldsborough, CBF Fisheries Director Congratulations to CBF Director of Fisheries Bill Goldsborough. Bill, who has directed CBF's Fisheries Program for 24 years, has recently been appointed to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.

The ASMFC was founded in 1942 in recognition that fish don't abide by manmade state lines, so a fishery in the Chesapeake Bay may be impacted—and need protection—from Maine to Florida. This strategy was critical to the recovery of Chesapeake rockfish. It's a daunting task, but I think the fish are darn lucky to have a guy like Bill standing up for them.

The Times, Are They A Changin'?

Oysters collected during 2007 monitoring of South River Maryland’s newly-formed Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) yesterday released its first report with initial recommendations about how the state should be managing its oyster resources.

You might not guess it, but this is exciting stuff. I know, I know… another commission, another report… and where are the oysters? What’s going to be different this time??

Well, for starters, the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and his team did a great job of naming new—but knowledgeable—faces to the commission. I'm not just saying this because CBF Maryland Executive Director, Kim Coble, is a member of the team. Everyone seems to be very committed to seeing the issues through fresh eyes and seeking new solutions.

The report's findings, recommendations, and even the vision statement are only preliminary, because the oyster Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)* isn't due out until this spring. That will provide more comprehensive information for the commission.

But—preliminarily—the OAC is recognizing some key things. One, that there is a difference between restoring oysters for their ecological value (that is, planting them onto sanctuaries where they can provide filtration and habitat value), and restoring the oyster industry (that is, keeping our watermen working). Both are laudable goals, but they are two very different things. 

Two, the OAC found that to date, federal and state oyster funding has primarily been used to support industry restoration, with less than a quarter of the funding supporting ecological restoration. This is clearly out of balance since one of the reasons we want to bring back the oyster population is to improve the health of the Bay. 

Moving forward, the Commission advocates ramping up the scale of ecological restoration, while helping the oyster industry transition into farming native oysters (aquaculture). Throughout the world aquaculture has proven to be more profitable and self-sustaining than harvesting wild oysters. In fact, we only have to look as far as Virginia to see that some of their watermen have transitioned to aquaculture and are doing nicely. And while creating a profitable industry, those oyster farms are providing some water filtration benefits to the Bay.

Let’s get in on that!

*The state/federal environmental impact statement regarding native and non-native oysters in the Chesapeake has been a long time coming, but it is considered the most comprehensive analysis to date of the oyster situation in the Chesapeake Bay.

Stephanie Reynolds is CBF's Maryland oyster restoration scientist.

Saint Clements Bay: A Novel of Remembrance and a gift for the Chesapeake

Photo: B.L. Lang written by B. L. Lang, author of the novel "Saint Clements Bay"

As a young girl in the 1950’s, I spent most summers at my grandmother’s cottage in southern Maryland. The place, primitive in a charming sort of way with an ivy-covered outhouse tucked away at the edge of the pines, was perched on a bluff overlooking Saint Clements Bay down at the mouth of the Potomac River. That bay and the river are important bodies of water flowing into the treasure that is the Chesapeake. Through the years, I’ve been pestered by vivid memories of the water, murky and brackish as the salt mixed with the fresh, but supporting plentiful blue crabs, beds of rich sea grasses, oysters, and adventure. Inspired by my own history, an inescapable love of the Chesapeake and the Saint Mary’s County area, I wrote Saint Clements Bay: A Novel of Remembrance. It’s a sweet story of a time gone by, a little history, some rather quirky characters, and a “near as can be remembered” account of my grandmother’s remarkable life and family, many of whom are native to the County.

Book cover: St. Clements Bay The Chesapeake needs all of us to pitch in however we can to bring it back to health and bounty—that’s why I have pledged one third of profits from the sale of the book to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  When it comes to working hard to ensure the improved status of the Chesapeake, no organization does more and is more effective than CBF. They provide education, activism, expertise, and more, to get the job done.  We’ve made an initial donation to CBF and, with the help of new readers we hope to keep contributing for a long time to come.  The book can be purchased at the publisher’s website,  where you can also read reviews and more, or on Amazon. Watch for author signings in the area later this spring.

If you have a question or comments on the book, you can email me through the publisher’s site.  I’d love to hear your own stories about the Bay—send me a note!

B. L. Lang, Author

We can't thank Ms. Lang enough for her generousity. The magic of it is that she is just one of thousands of others who have similar memories of the bountiful Bay in earlier days. We would like to hear your stories, too. Won't you please share them in our Comments section?

Grasses for the Masses Starts Up in Virginia

This post is old! Get our most current Grasses for the Masses news.

197994It's that time of year again! CBF volunteers can help restore the health of Virginia's rivers and the Chesapeake Bay by participating in our Grasses for the Masses program.

2008 workshops start February 13th.

Get details and sign up here.