DFA Chairman Robert Newberry and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan
The Chairman’s Corner – Captain Robert Newberry
Acidic Water…..Really? 10-18-17
As we continue marching down the road trying to address the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay and restoration of shellfish in the Bay, once again a new monster has risen its head. No, it’s not Chessie or Physteria (Hysteria), it’s the reported increase of acidic water in the Bay. Really? Again, we’re seeing a new study creating a pandemic like scare for ENGOs to use as a fundraising tool to clean the pockets of those concerned with the Bay’s health. Certain groups are saying that the decrease of pH in the Bay waters may harm the production of shells by oysters. One cannot help but the look back in history from the 1950s to current date and realize one thing – wasn’t there a problem with acidic water prior to them doing this study? Most certainly. Water acidity is increased by carbon dioxide and wastewater discharge being absorbed by saltwater, thus lowering the pH, or making the water more acidic. Prior to this study, you had massive industrial pollution coming from areas in Baltimore City, Sparrows Point, and other areas in Baltimore County. Industrial giants emitted tons of carbon dioxide and wastewater into the Bay and the atmosphere that was absorbed by the water of the Chesapeake Bay. But if this is detrimental to the shell production of oysters, why do we have any left? The pollution levels during this time were off the charts, but the oysters survived. From the period of 1960 to 2008, there were 59 million bushels of oysters harvested from the Bay. There were two catastrophic hurricanes during this time that affected sediment levels in the Bay, but the oysters still survived. This time frame was during the Maryland DNR program referred to as the oyster replenishment program. So, science tells us that the pollution levels from carbon emissions and wastewater where higher during that time, but our oysters remained resilient. So why the big concern now? Watching a recent news report on this matter, certain organizations that are involved with our supposedly successful oyster restoration program are very concerned. As they should be. This gives them (the architects and evaluators of the restoration program) the perfect outlet of an excuse to explain why the product they are producing and putting on these restoration areas is not meeting their expressed expectations. Also, it gives certain ENGOs the green light to drain the pockets of the good citizens of Maryland for another one of their Chesapeake Bay clean up initiatives. People, when are you going to realize acidity in the Bay has been happening for hundreds of years, and Mother Nature seems to be handling this pretty well on her own. We know that certain groups are constantly looking for more causes to generate alarm and money. Why don’t we do the most important thing we need to do – address the main point source pollution problems in the Chesapeake Bay. This is the dumping of millions of gallons of untreated human and industrial waste into the Bay by municipalities on the Western Shore. The established ENGOs need to address this problem, and stop picking the low-hanging fruit from the citizens of Maryland. With the hundreds of millions of dollars these ENGOs have, you would think they would use their assets to address the real problems. But they don’t. They just keep getting more money from people that they are able to convince that there is this “new” major problem that only they can solve. Let them step up to the plate, go after these large Western Shore municipalities, and watch what happens. Their fundraising efforts will dry up because they rely on these municipalities to help move forward their agenda politically (such as regulating septic tanks, which is harmful to rural economies where many watermen live). What a shame. After 40 years, and hundreds of millions of dollars, things should be better, but they’re not. Maybe it’s time for a new approach to the problem and stop politicizing the issue and deal with a hard reality of pollution. Stop dumping untreated human and industrial waste into the Bay. This is illegal, and these people should pay huge fines that should be earmarked to go to programs better geared towards water quality, and not fatten the pockets of those ENGOs.
Striped Bass Dilemma 9-29-17
After three years of pursuing the 20-inch striped bass size limit, a decent fisherman has to ask the question, “What the heck are we doing killing all these good fish?”
Since the spring of 2013, the 20-inch size limit has been in effect on striped bass. Fishermen have been “culling” through 18 and 19-inch fish to get their 20-inch legal fish. Many fishermen are saying that they have to catch as many as fifteen fish to keep one legal fish. Some fishermen say as many as twenty to one. So what happens to the discarded fish? Well, the majority of these discarded fish die. Especially in the summer when the water is very warm and the fishing pressure is at its greatest level. Now, here’s the problem: the majority of these returned fish are 18 to 19.5 inches. These are legal-size fish under commercial law, but they must be returned, or “culled” thru, to comply with the law on recreational and charter boats. These fish die and go to waste.
What is our DNR doing about this waste? After many letters of concern from DFA and a meeting of those in this industry, they finally admit it is not working. At their own admittance, hundreds of thousands of fish have been wasted that could have been kept under the previous regulations and that are legal to the commercial fisherman now.
So what are we going to do about this major “faux-pas” of a Fishery Management Plan (FMP)? Well, it’s very simple. Go back to the 18-inch fish. We have totally botched the conservation equivalence method for three years, the fish haven’t gone into extinction, and we have saved the year class of fish that we set out to protect. So the FMP that DNR submitted to ASMFC hasn’t worked. To err is human people, and stepping up and saying, “We screwed this one up” does not make you a fool. After all, you were told this would not work from the start and you were notified all along of the massive die off of marketable fish as a result of the size limit. It’s time to “right the wrong” boys. Let’s all stand up to the ASMFC in October! Tell them their FMP was no good, the fish are fine, and we are going back to the 18-inch striper. If they don’t like our approach, too bad. Let’s take back control of our Maryland State fish, do what we know is good for the fish, and stop politicizing our natural resource. I am sure the Secretary of the Department of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, will agree with Maryland on this one. It’s time for our DNR to show some strong leadership and do what is right for the fish, and to stop playing the political game that is not working so well now. Maryland cannot afford to sit back and watch. Let us take the lead, hold our heads up high, and do what is right for our natural resource: the Striped Bass of Maryland.
Capt. Rob Newberry