EDFish

EDF Oceans saddened by loss of Captain Larry Simns and shares its appreciation for his lifetime of Chesapeake leadership

Larry Simns

Larry Simns. Photo credit: Maryland Watermen’s Association

We at EDF Oceans were saddened to hear that Larry Simns, founder and leader of the Maryland Watermen’s Association for 40 years, passed away last Thursday at the age of 75. We are certainly not alone, however, as Larry was admired and respected by a wide range of communities. His ability to transcend the line between industry and government entities allowed him to lead his organization to consensus on challenging issues facing the Chesapeake Bay and the fishing industry.

Thomas V. Grasso, our Senior Oceans Advisor, wrote the following when he heard of Larry’s passing:

I have been privileged and honored to have known Captain Larry Simns for 20 years. I first met him when I was living and working on the Chesapeake Bay. For the entire time I knew Larry, he was a true leader on issues that mattered for the Chesapeake Bay and the Watermen who rely on the health of the bay for their livelihoods. Larry was a creative problem solver, always looking for ways to advance both the business interests of watermen and the restoration of the bay. He saw these two things as being intimately linked to each other and I could not agree more.  I learned a great deal from Larry and I know he will be missed on the Chesapeake Bay. We’ll miss his common sense and thoughtfulness in the public debate on the Chesapeake. I will miss him as a person and for his keen insights, sense of humor and passion for the watermen’s way of life.

This is a sad moment for the Chesapeake Bay community, but we hope that those who admired him and drew inspiration from his work will carry on his spirit of determination for the hardworking watermen of the Chesapeake Bay.

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‘Fish on Fridays’: Black Sea Bass, Virginia Beach Style

Black Sea Bass

Black Sea Bass

If you’ve been to an upscale Manhattan seafood restaurant, chances are you’ve seen Black Sea Bass on the menu. New York chefs drive the bulk of the demand for this tasty Atlantic fish, but you don’t have to be a fancy New York City chef to put Black Sea Bass on the table.  Sea bass fished off the coast of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware is caught sustainably under a catch share program which ensures that catch limits are not exceeded and fish populations can maintain healthy numbers. It is important to note, however, that not all sea bass caught on the Atlantic coast is sustainably managed, so it is best to ask your chef or seafood vendor where the fish was caught to ensure you are supporting fishermen who are fishing sustainably.

This week’s ‘Fish on Fridays’ post features VA black sea bass, currently managed under an ITQ system. Jack Stallings and his partner at Virginia Beach’s Coastal Grill have shared their technique for frying sea bass whole and serving it with scallion butter. Read More »

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Partnering with Maryland Watermen in Electronic Catch Accounting Pilot

While winter around the Chesapeake Bay is known for oysters and striped bass, summertime means blue crabs. If you enjoyed steamed crabs from Maryland this summer, you may have consumed crabs harvested by watermen involved in a ground-breaking test of technology to improve long-term blue crab management.

The Maryland Blue Crab Accountability Pilot program – a collaborative effort among commercial watermen called the Blue Crab Design Team, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and other partners – was designed to test electronic daily harvest reporting in order to gather more accurate and timely harvest information. From mid-July through the end of Maryland’s commercial crabbing season in mid-November, some 50 commercial crabbers, ranging in age from 25 – 75, tested the use of hand-held technologies like cell phones, smartphones and tablets, to report blue crab harvest daily.

Sustainable fisheries management requires sound science and accurate harvest and effort information. Current reporting relies on monthly paper reports and manual data entry that can take months to process. Daily electronic harvest reporting can improve the accuracy of harvest data, and result in real-time harvest information for in-season management decision-making. Read More »

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Maryland Crab Pilot Aims to Modernize Reporting

Maryland Blue Crab

Photo by: John Starmer/Marine Photobank

When summer time rolls around on the Chesapeake Bay, watermen, tourists and locals alike start thinking about one thing: Blue Crabs. Will there be enough? How much will they cost? How long will the season last?

Past years have seen seasons cut short based on regulations that conservatively lower scientifically determined catch limits as a precautionary management measure, because real-time harvest data is limited.  The process for counting how many crabs have been caught – and by whom – has been problematic, relying on a paper-based system that is time-consuming and too slow to allow meaningful adjustments to catch limits midseason. This year, both watermen and state officials agreed that a new system, using modern and faster technologies, was needed. Read More »

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On the RESTORE Act, Two Steps Forward, One Meaningless Gesture Back

Snapper boats dockedLast night the House and Senate agreed to compromise language on a broad set of initiatives referred to as the transportation bill.  Included in this “must-pass” bill is legislation dealing with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill known as the RESTORE Act.  There is much to applaud in this bill; for example, it provides important funding for fisheries science and research.  It’s too bad it also contains an empty political gesture against a fishery management tool that has benefitted the Gulf’s fishermen.

The RESTORE Act directs the penalties received by the federal government as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster to the affected region, including, at Senator Nelson’s particular insistence, providing funding for research to “support . . . the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, fish stocks, fish habitat, and the recreational, commercial, and charter fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.”  At a time of scarce funds and great need, this effort will help the marine resources and fishermen of the Gulf recover from the blow they suffered two years ago.

Unfortunately, the bill also contains a gratuitous slap at the region’s fishermen by prohibiting the use of the funds provided in the bill for the development or approval of new catch share programs along the east coast or the Gulf of Mexico.  The catch share language echoes an amendment previously offered by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) – but here it means absolutely nothing given a separate prohibition on using the money for any form of fisheries regulation. Read More »

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Catch Shares Gain New Allies In Close House Vote

In a disappointing move for the environment and the fishing industry, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a rider that would effectively ban new federal catch shares for fisheries in the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

Thanks in large part to catch shares, many fisheries in the United States have been turning a corner after decades of overfishing, massive job losses and closures. Fish caught in catch shares currently account for about half of the value and over three quarters of the volume of commercial landings in federal waters.

Some fisheries still under conventional management have not yet recovered, causing fishermen to suffer. This misguided rider would thwart progress and take a proven tool off the table for struggling fishermen and regional fishery management councils.

The rider was approved by a vote of 220-191, a smaller margin than when a similar rider was approved last year by a vote of 259-159. More members of Congress have come to oppose a ban because they want to make our oceans more sustainable for the fish and fishermen.  Read More »

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