Tag Archives: Chesapeake Bay

Talbot Watermen’s Association honors four local watermen

The Talbot Watermen’s Association and Gov. Larry Hogan honored four local watermen and remembered 15 during an opening ceremony for the eighth Watermen’s Appreciation Day on Sunday, Aug. 13, at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The four local watermen who were honored with Governor’s Citations and citations from the Maryland General Assembly were Clifford “Big Daddy” Wilson, Capt. Stanley Larrimore, Capt. Woody Faulkner and Joe Spurry Sr. Talbot Watermen’s Association President Jeff Harrison said Faulkner began crabbing when he was 16 years old. While he did have to find work on land as a carpenter sometimes, due to “hard times” on the water, Harrison said Faulkner always came back to the water. “We want to honor him … for the spirit he had as a waterman,” Harrison said. click here to read the story 16:57

New Blue Catfish Regulation Threatening Health of Chesapeake Bay and Business

The blue catfish is putting up quite the fight and it’s making Delmarva crabbers like Ryan Crouch frustrated. A new federal regulation will make it harder for those who catch blue catfish to sell them. The more catfish caught – the better off the crab population and the livelihoods of the watermen who catch them. The regulation, which goes into effect in September, requires watermen to hire an inspector before the fish can be sold. Watermen like Crouch and business owners like Joe Spurry Jr. of Bay Hundred Seafood are fighting this new regulation. They say the more catfish out of the bay, the more crabs there are to catch. click here to read the story 10:02

Maryland fishermen fight federal catfish regulations

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration has joined the cause and also sent a letter to UDSA Secretary Perdue, asking for “immediate regulatory relief” from the mandated inspection program for the wild-caught, U.S. catfish industry. “With the U.S. seafood trade deficit reaching historic proportions, strict harvest limits on most other wild seafood species, and traditional U.S. seafood jobs on the decline, the (Trump) Administration must provide every possible advantage to Americans seeking to invest in the business of wild-caught, domestic catfish,” Hogan wrote in the letter dated Tuesday, Aug. 8. Hogan wrote that American consumers increasingly are demanding wild, domestic seafood, and catfish is among that. The “seafood market for catfish in the Maryland/Virginia/D.C. region has grown from zero to millions of pounds sold in just a few years,” the letter reads. click here to read the story 08:30

Chesapeake Bay fishery to keep deteriorating unless nutrients from land are addressed

The March Bay Journal 2017 commentary, Don’t let menhaden become a case of could have, should have, would have, laments the decline in Bay menhaden populations and blames the reduced number of predatory “sport” fish on Omega Protein’s harvest (click here). The Atlantic States Marine fisheries Commission is quite clear this year that “Atlantic menhaden are neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing” (click here). In Maryland, juvenile menhaden are sampled annually through the Estuarine Juvenile Finfish Survey. The index of juvenile menhaden has been low since 1992, and “environmental conditions seem to be a major factor driving recruitment.” (click here). Something other than overfishing must contribute to, or even be responsible for, reduced Bay menhaden populations. I contend that the primary cause of depleted finfish stocks, including bottom-feeding fish like croaker that do not eat menhaden, and the menhaden themselves, is poor water quality, not overfishing. click here to read the story  12:17

Blue Crabs Crest Tipping Point – Maryland and Virginia may limit harvest for the remainder of the season

After almost three decades of effort, Maryland’s treasured Chesapeake Bay crustacean, the blue crab, has achieved a major scientific benchmark. The number of spawning females has at last reached the minimum target level for optimum species viability: 215 million sooks. The 2017 Winter Dredge Survey put the female population at well over the minimum, 254 million, an impressive 31 percent increase from the prior year. This is an important moment, as just four years ago (and five years prior to that), the female crab population had been ­driven to dangerous, even population-collapse, levels.,, To protect overall numbers, the Maryland, Virginia and Potomac River Fisheries Commission has proposed shortening the crabbing season and imposing stricter bushel limits on female crabs. No changes to male crab limits were proposed. click here to read the story 16:25

A crabbing boat sinks, a father is lost, a son rescued

In the final minutes of Ed Charnock’s life, he and his son clung to each other to conserve body heat in the frigid Chesapeake Bay. Jason Charnock handed his dad the only lifejacket he could grab from their fast-submerging crabbing boat. But the choppy water swept it away. “The boat sank, and Dad kept on floating away staring at me,” Jason Charnock told the Coast Guard in a statement he provided to The Associated Press. “I was looking for a helicopter to come,” he said. “I kept looking, and then looked back to see where my dad was, he wasn’t there and must have went under.” For this dwindling island community in the Chesapeake Bay, Ed Charnock’s drowning in late April struck a rare blow. click here to read the story 08:52

Fishery managers weighing cuts in Bay crab harvest

Chesapeake Bay crabbers will likely face some harvest restriction this season to protect future generations of the iconic crustacean, a move managers say is necessary because of the low population of juveniles. Fishery managers for Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission all say they are considering shortening the season and imposing stricter limits on the harvest of female crabs. They are not proposing changes in male crab catches. News of harvest cuts surprised some crabbers at Maryland’s Blue Crab Industry Advisory Committee last week. The latest winter dredge survey results released in April showed the highest number of female crabs in the 28-year history of the annual count. Female crabs clocked in at 254 million, a 31 percent increase over last year. But the Baywide survey, which counts the crabs in more than 1,000 locations as they burrow in the mud, estimated there were 125 million juvenile crabs in the Chesapeake, a 54 percent decrease from the 271 million found in 2016. That is the lowest tally since 2013 — a year when crabbers also had their catch curtailed — and one of the five lowest estimates since 1990, managers said. Click here to continue reading the article 21:38

A new oyster war – Rich homeowners vs. working-class watermen

Oystermen, pirates and police clashed violently more than a century ago over who could collect the Chesapeake Bay’s tasty and lucrative oysters. As the shellfish makes a comeback, a modern-day oyster war is brewing, this time between wealthy waterfront property owners and working-class fishermen. Over the past five years, oyster production has doubled on the East Coast, driven by new farming methods, cleaner water and Americans’ growing taste for orders on the half shell. The resurgence has led to unprecedented resistance from coastal Virginians who want to maintain picturesque views from their waterfront homes and has fueled a debate over access to public waterways. “These people can’t have it all,” said Chris Ludford, an oysterman in Virginia Beach who sells to nearby farm-to-table restaurants. Ludford said he faces fierce pushback along a Chesapeake Bay tributary from people with “a $2,000 painting in their house of some old bearded oysterman tonging oysters. “But they don’t want to look out their window and see the real thing,” he said. click here to read the story 14:15

Coast Guard suspends search for missing Tangier waterman

A search for a missing Tangier Island waterman was suspended, a day after his boat sank 5 miles off the island throwing him and is son into the chilly waters of the Chesapeake Bay and devastating their small island community. There was still no sign of Ed Charnock when the search was halted around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, said Petty Officer Berry Bena of Coast Guard Station Baltimore. “The whole island’s in mourning,” said Tangier Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge, who called Charnock “a very likeable guy – very humble.” Charnock and his son, Jason, went overboard after broadcasting on marine radio that their 40-foot boat was taking on water around 2:30 p.m. Monday. Weather conditions were hazardous with high winds, rain and reduced visibility, but most watermen are used to working in those conditions, said Charnock’s brother-in-law, Dan Harrison of Crisfield. Charnock was a good waterman who took meticulous care of his boat, he said. Click here to read the story 16:50

Maryland DMR says Chesapeake blue crab population grew by 35 percent over the past year

Marylanders could have an easier time finding — and affording — local crabs this summer, a survey of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population suggests. There are more than 550 million blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay, an increase of more than a third over this time last year and one of the highest counts of the past two decades, according to state officials. They credit favorable weather and past harvest restrictions for a second straight year of strong crab population growth. “We fully anticipate a robust crab season this year,” said Dave Blazer, fisheries survey director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Officials plan to explore whether the increasing numbers should prompt regulators to loosen harvest restrictions or lengthen the crabbing season. click here to read the story 17:18

“Eat the Invasives” – New catfish reg threatens watermen’s livelihood, Chesapeake Bay

Richard Turner Jr. maneuvered his Carolina Skiff around Gunston Cove in the Potomac River, then hoisted a hoop net out of the water that he’d left there hours ago. Inside wriggled a 12-pound blue catfish. These mustachioed menaces have been eating their way through the Potomac River and the rest of the Chesapeake Bay for the last decade. They can grow to 5 feet long and weigh up to 100 pounds while gobbling up other commercially valuable fish, such as menhaden and blue crabs. Turner and a growing number of fishermen are turning the tables on these invasive predators. Spurred on by a burgeoning market and the lack of any harvest limits, the blue catfish commercial fishery has taken off. But a new federal regulation could disrupt what many see as one of the most successful “eat the invasives” campaigns in the country. Under legislation passed by Congress years ago to protect Mississippi’s farmed catfish industry from foreign imports, sales of any type of catfish, including these wild-caught in the Chesapeake region, will be subject to inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The requirement takes full effect in September. continue reading the story here 11:51

Sonar revealing more river herring in Choptank River than expected

Scientists have a powerful new tool to help them “see” fish in the Chesapeake Bay’s murky tributaries, and it’s yielding some surprisingly good news about two of the estuary’s most troubled species. “Imaging sonar” uses sound to help them view, and count, passing fish in dark or cloudy water. For the past few years, scientists with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center have been deploying one of these underwater sound cameras in some of the Bay’s rivers to monitor spawning runs of alewife and blueback herring, collectively known as river herring.,,No one knows for sure how many river herring are in the Bay, as fisheries managers lack the staff and resources to do a comprehensive assessment. But a SERC-led team of scientists deployed an imaging sonar device in the Choptank River in 2014 that captured images of the fish as they swam by. Based on the rate at which scientists saw the shadowy blips cross their computer screens, they estimated that as many as 1.3 million river herring swam upriver that spring to spawn. That’s more than expected, and way more than state biologists had figured were there in the early 1970s, the last time anyone looked intensively at the Choptank’s herring runs. Read the article here 10:14

No sanctuary for fishermen

Sanctuaries are designated areas intended to provide a safe haven and protection. But for the watermen of the Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding tributaries, the word “sanctuary” is more often associated with anguish. So when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries initiated the designation process for Mallows Bay – Potomac River on October 7 of 2015, the watermen of the Potomac River began to grow wary of their future. On February 1, an assorted group of commercial fishermen from all across the Northern Neck of Virginia met with Maryland commercial fishermen at Mundy Point at Pride of Virginia Seafood and Trucking, Inc. to form together as the newly named Potomac River Working Watermen Association (PRWWA). One month later, on March 2, they held their second meeting to discuss their plan of action in opposition of the Mallows Bay – Potomac River sanctuary proposal. continue reading the story here 14:35

Chesapeake Bay advocates alarmed by plan that could open oyster sanctuaries to watermen

Some of the Chesapeake Bay’s most densely populated oyster sanctuaries could be opened to periodic harvesting under a plan being floated by state officials, setting up more conflict between alarmed environmentalists and watermen seeking to make a living. Neither side is pleased with the first draft of a new map of sanctuary boundaries in Maryland’s share of the bay. While watermen would gain some territory they ceded when a state oyster restoration strategy launched in 2010, dredging would be banned in other areas that are now open to harvesting. The net effect would be a loss of 11 percent of oyster sanctuary, instead opening up that acreage to watermen for undetermined stretches of time once every few years. Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration has supported what it calls “rotational harvesting” as a way to balance oyster recovery and bay restoration with the demands of the seafood industry. Continue reading the article here 15:17

In Chesapeake Bay’s changing ecosystem, blue crab is king (and moving north)

In the face of an evolving ecosystem, experts agree many of the differences in Chesapeake Bay marine life can – at least in part – be attributed to a worldwide warming trend. Over the last three decades, water temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay have increased about 1.5 degrees Celsius, or about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, said Rom Lipcius, professor of marine science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The change means populations of many native sea creatures in the Chesapeake have moved or expanded north in search of cooler water temperatures, and other non-native creatures have moved in. As the warming trend continues, experts say some marine species will thrive as others struggle to survive in the face of temperature, environment and predator and prey changes. “It’s not all bad news, and it’s not all good news,” said Jon Hare, science and research director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. “There are both winners and losers in this situation.” There have been a number of species, including blue crab, scup and black sea bass, that have shifted or extended northward along the Atlantic coast, said Hare. Read the story here 08:35

Lessons from accidental oyster sanctuaries

oystersThe oysters came up in the dredge like I hadn’t seen them in 50 years (and rarely even back then): huge and clumped together and bedecked with sponges and all manner of marine organisms, including younger oysters, thriving in the niches of the natural reef we’d just busted into. It was last winter, and we’d been dragging the bottom of Virginia’s lower York River for a state crab survey. By chance we’d nicked into an oyster sanctuary, undisturbed for decades. It wasn’t the kind of official sanctuary over which Maryland’s oystermen are wrangling with scientists and environmentalists — the watermen wanting more harvest, others wanting the benefits to the Chesapeake Bay’s water quality and the habitat of an undisturbed oyster reef. The little reef we struck in Virginia, not even designated on charts or given special status in law, is nonetheless well protected. Its enduring and pristine status comes from one of the world’s largest military-industrial complexes, concentrated here in the lower Chesapeake. Read the story here 14:16

‘Oyster wars:’ Watermen aim to take back oyster bars as state panel reviews shellfish sanctuaries

bal-oyster-restoration-bs0039914983-20160719Shells carrying millions of lab-grown baby oysters tumbled down the sides of a green-hulled boat named Robert Lee, and the $35,000 investment sunk into the Choptank River where it widens to meet the Chesapeake. The oysters, planted this past week, will grow there for two or three years before watermen scoop them back up and restaurants serve them fried or on ice. Nearby, other oyster reefs are restocked in the same manner but are off-limits to harvesting. These sanctuaries across bay tributaries help the shellfish recover from decades of disease outbreaks, and overfishing before that, and have been expanded in recent years to cover nearly a quarter of the bay’s 36,000 acres of oyster bars. Watermen could soon reclaim some of that territory. Read the rest here 12:01

A Good News Report: Blue crab numbers rebounding

blue_crabBlue crab population numbers have grown for the second straight year, especially for female crabs, but their numbers are still below target levels, a Chesapeake Bay Program report released Thursday said. The report also found that crabs were not being overfished, with about 50 million pounds taken last year over 2014’s 35.2 million pounds — the lowest harvest in 25 years. It urged regulators to stay the course and maintain crab management regulations in order to maintain the progress. Female crabs rebounded from a depleted 68 million in 2014 to 194 million at the beginning of the 2016 crabbing season, and juvenile crabs, those that will grow to harvestable size by the fall and grow into large crabs by next season, were also holding steady. Read the rest here  07:59

Will a great year for Chesapeake Bay crabs mean a great year for Watermen?

crabbing071465595831.wdpAt 4:41 a.m., Bubby Powley looked at his watch, looked at the thin, pink glow to the east, and looked at the dark water sliding past his boat. According to Maryland state law, he was allowed to start catching crabs exactly one hour before sunrise, and that was right . . . about . . . “Now. Dontcha think, Monroe?” Powley said, hitting a lever on a boom that lifted his first batch of the day from the Chesapeake Bay. The sprightly 66-year-old swung the basket inboard, where his culler of 42 years, Monroe Dorsey, 68, a slim cigar clenched under his white mustache, dumped a few dozen wriggling crustaceans into a fiberglass basin. It was a pretty good haul in what so far has been a very good crab harvest. Dorsey measured male after male with a plastic caliper and tossed those of five inches or more into one of the six and a half bushels Powley would sell later that day to a wholesaler. The summer is getting off to a promising start along America’s biggest estuary,,, Read the rest here 15:31

Smithsonian expert urges caution, patience on blue crab recovery

blue_crabThe results are in, 2016 is going to be a good year for blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. An iconic figure embedded in the culture and cuisine of the Chesapeake Bay area, the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) sustains the most profitable fishery in Maryland and supports thousands of fishermen and seafood businesses in Maryland and Virginia. Based on the annual winter survey conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, there are nearly 35 percent more blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay this season than there were in 2015. That’s good news, especially on the heels of a 38 percent increase the previous year. But scientists say there is a cautionary tale in this rapid rise. (but, of course!) Read the rest here  16:29

Maryland scientists to conduct Chesapeake Bay oyster harvest study

Oyster-basketScientists say they have only a vague idea of how many oysters cover the reefs in the Chesapeake Bay, and can’t say how many can be harvested safely each year without threatening the future of an already decimated population.In the waning hours of its 2016 session, the Maryland General Assembly this week authorized a study that advocates say will not only provide a more precise count of the bivalves, but assess how quickly they are reproducing, how fast they are growing and how they are faring against disease. The oyster study stoked controversy in an hours-long hearing earlier this month. Many watermen said it would lead inevitably to restrictions on their harvests, and the state Department of Natural Resources initially opposed it because the legislation left the DNR out of the research. But in a compromise, lawmakers gave the department responsibility for the study, to be conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. A final report is due in December 2018. Read the rest here 19:12

Tangier Island Is Sinking. Its Population Is Shrinking. And These Guys Want to Make It the Oyster Capital of the East Coast

082A0542.jpg.optimalThe water is 54 degrees, cold enough that Craig Suro lets out a yelp when he dives in. Stinging sea nettles the size of Ping-Pong balls dot the surface around him. To make matters worse, Suro needs to go to the bathroom. “Can you piss in a wetsuit?” he asks. We’re floating a few hundred yards off Tangier Island, a speck of land in the Chesapeake Bay. Beneath us is some of the bay’s finest oyster-growing territory. Its waters are salty but not too salty, a moderate 17 parts per thousand. Enough algae is borne on the currents for millions of oysters to gorge themselves happily. Suro and his partners have bet half a million dollars on being able to turn this patch of bay into an oyster-farming empire. Read the rest here 10:28

Fishermen encouraged to take big bite out of Bay’s blue catfish population

For years, Rocky Rice made his living primarily by fishing two of the Bay’s most iconic species: striped bass in the spring and blue crabs much of the summer. But after several years of poor blue crab catches, and with new catch limits on striped bass being put in place, Rice added one of the Bay’s most troublesome species to his mix: blue catfish. Rice is one of a growing number of fishermen responding to the plea of fishery officials to catch as many of the voracious predators as they can. Read the rest here 17:07

Chesapeake crabbers face changing workforce, murky future

Morgan Tolley is a third generation crab processor working on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, but he’s worried that his industry may be under threat as more and more young people shun the traditional family-oriented trade. The A.E. Phillips crab picking house Tolley manages in Fishing Creek, Maryland, relies on crabs harvested by the “watermen” of the Bay. “It’s passed down from generation to generation, that’s how you learn to become a waterman. Not everybody knows how to fish a trotline or bait a crab pot,” Tolley said. Read the rest here 13:08

The real culprit behind the war on watermen is pollution

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been accused of waging a “war on watermen,” and watermen are fighting back, seeking changes in the way the bay’s fisheries are being managed. They say their livelihoods are being undermined and their culture threatened. They are right about that, but they are directing their anger at the wrong people. The bay is choking on an overload of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from a variety of pollution sources. The results of this over-enrichment are massive population explosions of algae that turn the water to pea soup from spring to fall. This cloudy water blocks sunlight from underwater grasses, reducing this critical habitat for crabs and juvenile fish to only 20 percent of historical coverage. Read the rest here 15:27

A great migration is under way – Spring brings fish by the millions to Chesapeake Bay

Tourists aren’t the only ones flocking to our waters this time of year. A great migration is under way beneath the surface, too. Triggered by warming seas, hidden by tea-colored waves, propelled by the hunt for food and sheltered nursery grounds, all sorts of creatures are swimming or crawling their way up from the south. Their destination: the Chesapeake Bay. In the winter, only 30 or so aquatic species ply the bay. In the summer, that number explodes beyond 250.The catch flooding into the Lynnhaven Fishing Company tells the tale of the seasonal commute, Read the rest here 08:56

Mathematicians and Blue Crabs

Scientists in the Chesapeake Bay area have been playing a real-life version of Valentine’s game, with blue crabs instead of grouse. Each spring, they wait for the results of the baywide Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey, the most recent of which were announced Monday. The estimate of the crab population gives scientists another data point to work with, and anxious watermen a sense of whether this will be a good or bad year for the most valuable commodity in the Chesapeake. Read the rest here 09:29

Survey shows number of blue crabs in Chesapeake Bay rising

blue crabAn annual survey by marine officials shows a significant increase in the number of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission says the overall bay-wide crab population increased from 297 million crabs to 411 million crabs, a 38 percent increase. The long, cold winter kept the numbers from being higher. The survey shows about 28 percent of all adult crabs in Maryland died due to the cold weather. Read the rest here 16:25

 

Oyster poaching continues on bay despite enforcement efforts

Waterman Edward “Bruce” Lowery lost his Maryland license to harvest oysters five years ago, after racking up more than three dozen violations. He was convicted of fishing at the wrong times, in the wrong places and using the wrong equipment. But that hasn’t stopped him from oystering in the. Lowery, 49, says he bought a piece of land in Virginia — a “$3,000 piece of nothing” where he has never lived — to secure a commercial license from that state. Virginia regulators didn’t ask about his record in Maryland. Read the rest here 10:30

Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab population rebounding

Last year was a dismal episode for Chesapeake Bay blue crabs and the watermen who harvest them. It’s not that crabs were being overfished. Instead, experts suspect a combination of environmental factors. The good news now is that preliminary evidence from the annual blue crab winter dredge survey shows the numbers are climbing again. Read the rest here 08:26