Sunday, December 26, 2010


Julia has chastised me for not mentioning the addition of between 700 and 1,000 to our "Family". She is most upset about my failure to bring them up in one of my Blogs. After all, she is out there bottle feeding them every day - not really!

We put a "Box" under our pier with between 700 and 1,000 young oysters (We didn't count them) in it. They will grow there for approximately a year, after which we are told they will be large enough to be transferred to a new, protected, home somewhere in The Bay where they will, hopefully, live out their lives Cleaning The Chesapeake Bay.

At one time there were twenty Billion oysters in The Bay carrying out this vital function every day of their lives. A function that they were perfectly designed to do. Unfortunately some (Very brave or very hungry!) person discovered that oysters were good to eat. At that point they were doomed! Like every other thing in nature that Man has had any kind of contact with, we seem to think our duty is to try to destroy it! There are now only maybe twenty million oysters left, for the mathematically challenged among you, that is one oyster for every 1,000 oysters that were there when we arrived in The Bay. At the height of their numbers oysters were able to filter all of the water in The Bay every few days! However at 1,000th of their previous numbers, it would take instead YEARS for them to filter it once!

Why is it that we can never learn from our mistakes? The Bay is dirty, it needs cleaning, oysters could clean it for us - for free! But still we cannot see that. If we took some of a resource and left the rest, we would have an everlasting resource. But we cannot do that.

As a simple explanation, I have some mint in my garden, I take some to make some mint sauce. next time I want mint sauce I get some more. There will always be more there, because I only take as much as I need. BUT, if I were an "Entrepreneur", or a "Manufacturer", Or a "Businessman" I would instead take ALL of the mint and make mint sauce to sell. I would then have none left! Duh. So, I would go looking for more mint else where, taking all that I can find everywhere I find it! Duh. Soon there is none to be found anywhere. Duh. If instead I had taken just enough that the mint could replenish itself - say half of the crop each year - I could continue to exploit it ad infinitum. Is that hard to understand? Not for me, but it is, apparently, for most people.

Applying this to the Oyster population of The Chesapeake Bay, we could take some, leaving the rest to reproduce. Or we could take from part of the Bay - say half of it - leaving the remaining areas to replenish the whole Bay. Or we could rotate - as a farmer does his fields - and harvest from designated areas of the Bay for a few years and then close that area off and allow harvesting in another area, while the first area replenishes. Pretty simple huh? But no, we have to take ALL. So what do we have left? Very little, except a lot to complain about which we do vociferously, often and long. Not introducing our own failings into the equation at all. Why can we not see that we do these things to ourselves?

And it is in our power to correct it.

Still in the Chesapeake Bay, we have also destroyed the shoals of Menhaden that used to be here. Menhaden, sometimes known as Alewives form the bottom of the food chain. They roamed The Chesapeake Bay by the Billions when we arrived here, filtering gallons of water, per minute - each fish! They filtered out the tiny flora that would otherwise have clouded up the water (As it does now - further hurting the ability of the Oysters to survive) and changing it into . . . fish! That fish was the food of the bigger fish that were here then. Six foot long Salmon - all gone now, schools of 140 pound Striped Bass and so many whales that they were a danger to shipping! All of those fish, and many birds, depended on the lowly Menhaden for their survival. The Menhaden may be the most important fish, period. It is no good to us for eating, being very bony and oily, but it is a perfect food for other fish.

A company called Omega Protein has almost singlehandedly eliminated the Menhaden. They find a school, put a net around them and scoop them all up. They are then made into fish meal, to feed to other fish, or for fertilizer, or pet, or poultry food. They are systematically eliminating one the most important fish in the seas today. Apart from being food for other fish, animals and birds they swim around 24 hours a day with their mouths wide open filtering 4 gallons of The Bay's waters EVERY MINUTE! And they do this for free. Can you imagine what it would cost us to do this? They then convert that gunk into fish, at the same time allowing sunlight to reach the oysters and the Bay's Grasses.

All this stuff about restoring The Bay, it would restore itself if we would only allow it. If the Menhaden were allowed to return they would clean the water, allowing the oysters to also return and clean the water, allowing the grasses to return and clean the water and shelter the young fish and crabs who would also clean the water.

But instead of sheltering oysters, menhaden, grasses and the myriad of life forms important to The Bay's survival (and our survival), we shelter companies like Omega Protein whose only function is to line their pockets by destroying The Bay. I am told there are a few remaining Menhaden schools. (When I came here just 40 years ago, I would go out onto The Bay fishing and see the water boiling with fish - huge schools of Menhaden, clouds of Gulls would be circling, picking up the bits of Menhaden floating after the attacks of the schools of Striped Bass and Bluefish circling under them.) Those magnificent fish have been decimated by overfishing too but also by the removal of their main food source - the Menhaden.

A fleet of spotter planes is maintained that circles The Bay looking for the few remaining Menhaden, when a small school is spotted (Because that is all that is left) they call in the ships to vacuum them up. With the demise of the Menhaden we may see the end of fish! Period!

And as I said, please don't forget. it is within our power to correct this carnage, this massacre of our beloved Chesapeake Bay.

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