Tag Archives: Chesapeake Bay

Here’s why workers are digging Chesapeake Bay blue crabs out of the mud this month

On a recent gray January morning, they were working a section of the upper Chesapeake Bay off Rock Hall on the Eastern Shore. Capt. Roger Morris, a Dorchester County waterman who works under contract with the state’s department of natural resources, dropped a Virginia dredge off the stern of F/V Mydra Ann, his 45-foot Bay workboat, and let the attached chain pay out until the dredge hit bottom 20-some feet below, jolting the boat. A Virginia dredge refers to an eight foot wide piece of equipment with an attached net that gets dropped into the water to dredge for crabs. Morris eased the throttle forward and dragged the dredge through the mud for one minute at three knots, then hauled it back up, pausing to rinse the mud out before bringing it on board. photos, >click to read< 19:08

Virginia Regulators to Consider Changes to Menhaden Fishing Regulations

Virginia regulators will consider changes to commercial menhaden fishing in the Chesapeake Bay following requests from recreational anglers to put an end to the fishery. The proposals follow repeated requests from the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association to stop menhaden fishing in the Bay, including a petition of 11,000 signatures that was presented to the office of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year. Reedville-based Omega Protein, the lone player in the Bay’s menhaden reduction fishery, which processes catches into fishmeal or fish oil, says the new regulations take away available fishing grounds that include uninhabited areas. Taking operations completely out of the Bay into less safe conditions in the ocean would ultimately force the company to stop operating. >click to read< 11:51

Menhaden Harvest Increase Approved as Anglers Petition to Close Bay Fishery

East Coast fishery managers have approved increasing commercial harvests of Atlantic menhaden from Maine to Florida. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which regulates near-shore harvests of migratory fish, voted Wednesday to set a new ceiling on the coastwide menhaden catch of 233,550 metric tons, a 20 percent increase over the current quota. The longstanding cap on harvest in the Chesapeake Bay remains unchanged, at 51,000 metric tons. But conservationists and sports anglers continue to worry about the impact to the Bay from large-scale fishing of menhaden near its mouth. >click to read< 13:54

This invasive fish population is exploding as native Blue Crab populations hit record lows.

The invasive species in question is the blue catfish, a species so large it has become known as the “River Monster of the Potomac ” and other major Chesapeake Bay tributaries. The catfish’s diet includes native Blue Crabs. A November 2021 study from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science reports the catfish consumed as many as 2.3 million crabs per year from a study area in the lower James River. The first blue catfish were intentionally imported into the James River in Virginia during the 1980s. The species is native to the Mississippi valley. The fish are huge and consume almost any other species of wildlife they can encounter, catch and swallow, including crabs and other shellfish, Love said. Researchers have found the blue catfish will even eat ducks. >click to read< 07:59

Atlantic menhaden not overharvested, fisheries commission concludes

An updated menhaden population assessment that takes into account the ecological role of the species as a popular food for other fish deems the coastwide stock to be in good shape. The latest assessment, presented to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Aug. 3, incorporates data collected through last year. It concluded that “overfishing is not occurring, and the stock is not considered overfished.” But even with the new methodology, the latest assessment concluded the overall stock was healthy, a finding immediately touted by the Menhaden Fisheries Coalition, a group representing commercial harvesters. >click to read< 10:26

Decline in Chesapeake crab population sparks hunt for answers

Commercial crabbers in Maryland and Virginia aren’t catching their limits, and the harvest in the first few months of the season was so meager that some gave up trying. “Crabs are so scarce that me and my son are still catfishing,” Billy Rice, a Charles County, MD, waterman, said in June. “We’re making more money catfishing than we would be crabbing.” Based on what they see on the water, crabbers have no shortage of theories about why the Bay’s most prized catch is hard to find: Changes in water quality, climate change and an influx of crab-eating fish top the list. Whatever the case, said J. C. Hudgins, president of the Virginia Waterman’s Association. “Mother Nature has throwed a wrench in the barrel.” >click to read< 14:23

Maryland to restrict crabbing, including first-ever limits on harvest of male blue crab

Regulations issued this week, to be in effect from July through December, will limit commercial watermen to at most 15 bushels a day of male crabs in August and September. And the regulations will tighten existing restrictions on how many female crabs watermen can catch. The changes come weeks after an annual survey of Chesapeake blue crabs,,, That state fishery managers moved to limit even the harvest of male crabs demonstrates the gravity of the situation. Limits are typically only imposed on female crabs as a means of ensuring enough of them to survive to spawn, but with a more than 60% decline in the overall estimated blue crab population since 2019, scientists and representatives from the seafood industry are signaling that more protections are needed to help boost crab reproduction. >click to read< 16:02

Chesapeake Bay blue crabs in trouble, tighter harvest restrictions loom

With the Chesapeake Bay’s crab population at its lowest ebb in more than 30 years, Maryland and Virginia are moving to curtail harvests in one of the region’s most valuable fisheries. Fisheries regulators in both states have proposed new catch restrictions, with plans to finalize them by the end of June. In Maryland, tighter limits for both commercial and recreational crabbing would take effect in July and for the first time would limit commercial harvests of male crabs, not just females. New commercial restrictions in Virginia would begin in October and continue until the crabbing season ends Nov. 30. >click to read< 08:17

A Place Called Guinea – In Gloucester County, a centuries-old culture with its own dialect endures.

This place is where watermen weathered rugged conditions all day every day, fishing the rivers, dredging the oysters, and hauling in crab pots to harvest the seemingly endless bounty of the Chesapeake Bay. Smelling like fish, dismissive of their swollen hands and knuckles, these same men would later gather in a general store, you could find one on almost every corner, and swap stories over whose catch was the biggest. “Whoever was louder was the winner,” says fireman Nick Bonniville, whose father, grandfather, and a generation of great grandfathers all worked the Guinea waters. >click to read< 08:15

Gasoline, diesel prices put squeeze on Hampton Roads commercial fishing

“It’s going to get to a point where the customers won’t want to buy because it’s so outrageously expensive,” said Kyle Robbins. “Everyday it costs me about $150 to $200 just in fuel to leave the dock,” Robbins said. Six days a week, Robbins ventures out on a crabbing boat to haul in hundreds of pounds of crabs from the Chesapeake Bay. But the rising cost of fuel for those boats has caused his crabbing habits to change. “In certain times, maybe we can travel another 10 to 15 miles to catch more crabs, but we’re not wanting to spend the fuel, so we’re traveling only two to three miles,” he said. “It’s a lose-lose situation.” Video, >click to read< 08:15

Going On Tour! Chesapeake Bay Buyboat History Comes to Life with 17th Annual Rendezvous

Skipjacks get all the glory, but there’s another hero of the Bay’s historic seafood industry worth celebrating: the buyboat. The era of Chesapeake Bay motor-powered buyboats started at the turn of the 20th century when gas and diesel engines powerful enough to push a boat the size of a Bay buyboat became affordable and available to the general public.,, Though most people recognize the term buyboat, it is somewhat misleading because buying and selling seafood was only a small part of the overall use of these boats. The Chesapeake Bay Buyboat Association will hold its 17th annual buyboat rendezvous from July 30- Aug. 8. The tour will start in Urbanna at the town-owned marina on Urbanna Creek from July 30-Aug. 1 and end on Aug 6-8 at Hudgins Horn Harbor Marina in Port Haywood. >click to read< 16:26

Half Male – Half Female Chesapeake Blue Crab

This crab, known as a bilateral gynandromorphism, is about 4.5 inches long and is estimated to be in its third year. It has both blue and red claws at the tip and an apron (lower abdomen) split in the middle. Typically, male gazami crabs have blue toes and a T-shaped apron, while females have a red tip and a wide apron. Gynandromorphic crabs have not been reported on the East Coast for at least 15 years. Gynandromorphism does not occur in mammals, but has been observed in lobsters, crabs, snakes, butterflies, bees, chickens and other birds.  Video, >click to read< 10:19

Tilghman Island Blessing of the Fleet: Watermen, first responders honored for life-saving rescue

The watermen’s fleet has officially been blessed, along with five men who rescued a waterman earlier this year and saved his life after falling overboard into the Chesapeake Bay’s cold waters. Public officials, community and religious leaders and locals gathered at Dogwood Harbor in Tilghman Island on Sunday, April 11, to give their blessings to the watermen. The ceremony offers good graces to the seafood catchers as they prepare to fish, crab and oyster in the Bay and its tributaries this year. The annual “blessing of the fleet,” comes just after crabbing season officially began on April 1. photos, >click to read< 08:42

Capt. Willard Hamilton Norris, Deltaville’s Last Active Wooden Boat Builder Passes Away at 94

The Bay region lost a boatbuilding icon on Jan. 7 as Capt. Willard Hamilton Norris, 94, of Deltaville passed away. Norris built boats past age 90, best-known for his deadrise workboats. In a 2017 Chesapeake Bay Magazine story, he said he hoped to continue building until he was 100. During the    heyday of planked wooden deadrise workboats on the Chesapeake Bay, Willard was born in 1927 to a traditional boatbuilding family on Lovers Lane  in Deltaville.,,, With the help of his wife Shirley, he built his first “paid to build” boat in the footprint of his soon to be living room and used the profits from the boat to complete his home. >click to read< 10:29

Tale of skipjack captain and caper still worthy of praise

This is the story of a gift of Chesapeake waters, no less important than any bounty of seafood. It’s about Art, the late Art Daniels, Jr., that is, legendary Deal Island oyster dredger, captain for more than half a century of the skipjack City of Crisfield. It’s also about the art of the oyster, which appears to be the least glamorous of Chesapeake seafood, no match for the blue crab’s colors, the sportiness of striped bass or the eel’s epic migration from Bay streams to Sargasso Sea. No method of harvesting the Bay was more artful than the wind filling the outsize mainsail of a skipjack as the captain drove her skillfully, >click to read< 09:35

Chesapeake Bay Says Goodbye to a Classic Virginia Deadrise Boatbuilder

Edward Diggs, an iconic builder of deadrise workboats, left the Chesapeake Bay for good on Thanksgiving after a long, well-lived life. He was 93 and had lived for many years in the home he built with his family on Mobjack Bay in Redart. Diggs began building boats with his father and later built with Alton Smith,,, Diggs boats were large (44-50’), high-sided, and built stout. Mr. Edward’s last large boat is a good example: Dutch Girl is 50’ x 15’, built in 1992 at Horn Harbor for Capt. Dave Thompson. Thompson took her to New York,,, >click to read< 18:20

‘Forever chemicals’ found in Chesapeake seafood and Maryland drinking water

More testing has found so-called “forever chemicals” in a striped bass, blue crab and oyster from the Chesapeake Bay,,, Eleven different PFAS compounds were also detected in tap water sampled from three homes in Montgomery County,,, PFAS are a group of more than 8,000 chemical compounds used in nonstick cookware, flame retardants, water-repellant and stain-resistant clothing and furniture, as well as in fire-fighting foams used at airports and military bases. They do not break down in the environment. They also spread easily through water and can build up in animals or organisms that ingest them, including people. >click to read< 18:04

Land-based salmon farm proposed for Chesapeake’s Eastern Shore

AquaCon executives intend to build a $300 million indoor salmon farm on the outskirts of Federalsburg in Caroline County. By 2024, they aim to harvest 3 million fish a year weighing 14,000 metric tons — an amount on par with Maryland’s annual commercial crab catch. If that goes as planned, the company expects to build two more land-based salmon farms on the Shore over the next six or seven years,,, Another Norwegian company is preparing for its first full harvest later this year from a facility south of Miami, and plans have been announced to build big indoor salmon farms in Maine and on the West Coast. Two small U.S.-based salmon operations in the Midwest also are moving to expand production. >click to read< 07:12

Prince Charles, sea lice, & why salmon farming sucks – Norwegian investors hope to delouse the salmon industry with new facility in Maryland

Business media worldwide have for weeks failed to mention that fact in amplifying a July 7, 2020 announcement that the Norwegian firm AquaCon plans to build a $300 million land-based salmon farm on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay. Sea pen salmon farms have worn out their nets, welcome,  and often their investment return ratios from Puget Sound to coastal Scotland and Scandinavia. Factory-farming salmon in land-based tanks promises to avoid some of the issues afflicting the aquaculture industry. Land-based salmon farms, for instance, may be better able than sea pen farms to control the disease outbreaks and pollution that have become hallmarks of the land-based salmon industry. >click to read< 13:01

Maryland’s wild oyster harvest doubles from last year

Despite having fewer days to work, Maryland watermen harvested nearly twice as many wild oysters last season as they did the previous year, state officials report. Even so, a new study finds the state’s population of bivalves is in much better shape now than it was two years ago, with abundance up and overfishing down. As a result, state fisheries managers say they’re weighing whether to maintain catch restrictions put in place last season or relax them for the next wild harvest season, which normally begins Oct. 1. Data presented Monday night to the Department of Natural Resources’ Oyster Advisory Commission indicates that the overall abundance of adult, market-size oysters in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay has rebounded considerably since 2018 and is now at the fifth highest level since 1999. >click to read< 17:01

Female Blue Crab Population Up In Chesapeake Bay, Juvenile Numbers Low

Chesapeake Bay blue crab population appears to have a healthy number of spawning-age female crabs, according to the 2020 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey. Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission aims to conserve more than 70 million adult female crabs annually to ensure enough young crabs can be produced to sustain the population, a task that has now been achieved for the sixth consecutive year. This year’s survey estimates 141 million adult female crabs were conserved, which is above the long-term average of 126 million. The total amount of blue crab in the Chesapeake Bay in 2020 was 405 million crabs,,, >click to read< 14:56

Humpback whales, large ships on deadly collision course at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay

Attracted by a relative abundance of fish, growing numbers of humpback whales spend the winter in the waters where the Chesapeake Bay empties into the Atlantic Ocean. No. 166675 was one of them. Researchers tracked the young male with a satellite tag for 10 days in January 2017 as he dodged huge vessels in one of the busiest shipping lanes on the East Coast. The next month, the whale’s body washed ashore on Virginia Beach. A necropsy confirmed the scientists’ fears: He had been struck by a large ship. After six years of monitoring humpbacks’ movements in the Hampton Roads region, the team conducting the Navy-funded study has published its first peer-reviewed paper. It shows that many more humpbacks are at risk from ship strikes and suggests that authorities may need to take more actions to protect them. >click to read< 13:45

Chesapeake Bay’s menhaden catch cut drastically, along with Omega Protein quota

Virginia is cutting this year’s Chesapeake Bay menhaden catch by more than 80% from last year’s landings in order to end a federal moratorium.
Federal fisheries officials said they’d bar fishing for menhaden in the Bay this year — as long as the fish were headed for Omega Protein’s fish oil and fishmeal plant in Reedville — because the state had not enacted a 41.5% cut to 51,000 tons in Omega’s quota, which had been imposed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in 2017. But the Atlantic States commission has not found that menhaden were overfished. “To be perfectly clear, there is no conservation basis for the Chesapeake Bay cap. No scientific methodology was used in setting the Chesapeake Bay cap by the ASMFC, ,,, >click to read< 15:35

This Is Where 75% Of Wild-Caught Seafood Grows (It’s Not The Ocean)

The special places where freshwater rivers mix with the salty ocean are known as estuaries. Even if you have never heard of an estuary, you probably know of a couple; Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay, Washington’s Puget Sound, Florida’s Tampa Bay, and California’s San Francisco Bay are all estuaries. Estuaries are also are teeming with life-supporting nutrients. River water carries land-based nutrients into the estuary, and salt-water animals take advantage. The special features of estuaries make them an essential component of the seafood industry accounting for up to 75% of commercially-caught seafood. >click to read< 08:42

Scientists Struggle to Save Seagrass From Coastal Pollution

In parts of the United States and other developed countries, there is growing recognition of the importance of seagrass and its sensitivity to nitrogen-rich runoff from sewage treatment plants and other sources. Too much nitrogen can spike algae growth, which clouds the water and blocks the sunlight seagrass needs to grow. “We think this is a problem that has to be solved,”,, Communities around the Great Bay have spent about $200 million to upgrade wastewater treatment plants,,, >click to read< 13:24

The One that Didn’t Get Away: The Atlantic’s Largest Menhaden Fishing Fleet Faces Penalties

At a meeting this week in New Hampshire, commissioners from Florida to Maine voted unanimously to find Virginia out of compliance. Eric Reid is a commercial fisherman who represented Rhode Island at this week’s meeting. “I got boats sitting at the dock too. And when the fed said fishing is over, we stayed tied to the dock. We didn’t write a letter saying ‘hey I’ve got 150 employees as well and we need to make money and we’re going.’ We stopped,” Reid noted. “It kinda rubs my nose in it a little bit. I don’t care for it.” >click to read< 08:50

The Battle Over Menhaden Harvesting in the Bay

“The menhaden issue is a very complex issue the commission is currently facing,” says Toni Kerns, ASMFC’s director of Interstate Fisheries Management Program and Policy Development. The ASMFC is a group that, under federal law, manages and oversees coastal fisheries including the menhaden species. Essentially, the ASMFC has regulatory authority. Video, >click to read< 08:30

Ships are getting speeding tickets in the Chesapeake Bay to protect right whales

Eight years ago the COSCO Nagoya, a giant ship capable of carrying more than 4,000 cargo containers, was motoring around the Chesapeake Bay when it ran into a speed trap. Three months later, the Nagoya got dinged again for speeding, this time near the Port of Charleston. Over the next several months, the Nagoya was caught 13 more times up and down the east coast, from South Carolina to New York. Each speeding violation came with a price tag of $5,750 for a total of $86,250 in fines.  >click to read< 13:43

Chesapeake crab count up, but fewer watermen catching them

Stocks of blue crab in the Chesapeake Bay are up from last year by an estimated 60 percent, the best it’s been in six years, according to a group of experts from state and federal agencies and academic institutions. “The winter dredge survey results indicate a strong year ahead for blue crab,”,,, And while that’s good news for watermen, there are fewer of them actually out fishing for crabs in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. >click to read< 18:48

By dint of hard work

It’s a story of being in the right place at the right time. But mostly, it’s a success story by dint of a long life of hard work. It shows on Capt. Willy Roe’s face. He’s earned his wrinkles and thinning hair. But there’s a cragginess, a waterman’s weathered visage that tells its own story of too much sun, frigid gales and choppy seas on the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and creeks. An official old-timer at 85, Roe still is working. >click to read<09:00