Share with the com­mu­nity this Christ­mas

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­

If you read this col­umn last week, you saw lots of rec­om­men­da­tions for gift giv­ing for the young and not-as-young to get them out­side and en­joy­ing na­ture.

Our tra­di­tion of hol­i­day gift giv­ing is a lot of fun, both for the giver and the re­cip­i­ent. But we all know that the spirit of Christ­mas isn’t re­ally about the buy­ing of stuff. It’s about giv­ing of our­selves to spread joy and show love for our fel­low man.

Ev­ery Christ­mas my par­ents would take my sis­ter and me to see “A Christ­mas Carol.” Some years it was at Ford’s Theatre, other years the pro­duc­tion was closer to home at the Port To­bacco Play­ers. But it was some­thing we did ev­ery year. See­ing Scrooge trans­form from a loath­some miser into a gen­er­ous and com­pas­sion­ate man made an im­pres­sion on my young mind.

There is a book I like to read to my own chil­dren at Christ­mas, writ­ten by some­one you prob­a­bly know from the pop­u­lar comic strip “Mutts.” Pa­trick McDon­nell wrote a chil­dren’s book in 2005 called “The Gift of Noth­ing.” It’s a short read ap­pro­pri­ate for kids 3 to 6, but re­ally the mes­sage is one that res­onates with any age.

The cat from the comic strip, Mooch, wants to give his best friend Earl a present. But Earl al­ready has ev­ery­thing in the world he could need or want. At the end, Mooch set­tles on giv­ing Earl a big box of noth­ing, and they spend the evening to­gether en­joy­ing noth­ing that can be bought but ev­ery­thing that is im­por­tant in life — friend­ship, love, and the beauty of the night sky. That’s a mes­sage each one of us can take to heart.

I’m sure all you par­ents, grand­par­ents, hus­bands and wives will be en­sur­ing there is no short­age of Christ­mas presents un­der the tree this year. I’ll be do­ing quite a bit of wrap­ping my­self over the next week. How­ever, this year, it would be the right thing to do to share some of our bounty with those in our com­mu­nity who don’t have as much, es­pe­cially the young­sters.

My chil­dren’s school has an an­gel tree in the front of­fice with lots of tags on it. I have three chil­dren who at­tend this school, so each of them grabbed a tag last week and we headed to the store to see if we couldn’t ful­fill some­one else’s wishes for Christ­mas. It’s hard to say no when most of the gifts re­quested were win­ter coats, hats, gloves, shirts and pants — the barest of ne­ces­si­ties to make it through the win­ter warmly. That’s the ba­sic def­i­ni­tion of in need.

I’m sure you’ve seen one of those trees some­where, maybe at your chil­dren’s school or in the church lobby. Grab one of the or­na­ments and make some­one’s hol­i­day a lit­tle more joy­ful.

Toys for Tots has sta­tions all over South­ern Mary­land and

that’s even eas­ier to do. You just buy an un­wrapped toy and drop it in the bin. Toys for Tots takes care of the rest.

And how about the furry, scaled, and winged crea­tures liv­ing at the lo­cal an­i­mal shel­ter?

Those an­i­mals don’t know it’s Christ­mas, but they cer­tainly wish they were liv­ing some­where else more com­fort­able. I spoke with a man­ager who said the an­i­mals there are fed on a diet of only do­nated food.

The Tri-County An­i­mal Shel­ter will take any do­na­tion of any items that will en­hance the lives of the pets who tem­po­rar­ily re­side there. The biggest need is for cat and dog food, both dry and wet va­ri­eties and kit­ten and puppy ver­sions, too. Of course cat lit­ter is much ap­pre­ci­ated as well, and any­thing else you can think of that might make life a lit­tle more pleas­ant for the an­i­mals liv­ing there.

Changes for men­haden pos­si­ble

Christ­mas cards are al­ready start­ing to show up in my mail­box. Per­haps you’ve al­ready sent yours out or are just get­ting ready to sit down and start writ­ing ad­dresses on en­velopes. I have one more ad­dress for you to add to your list this year, the At­lantic States Marine Fish­eries Com­mis­sion.

No, I’m not jok­ing around. In fact, it’s is not a laugh­ing mat­ter at all. It’s a very se­ri­ous is­sue that will af­fect ev­ery sin­gle one of us liv­ing in Mary­land and the fu­ture of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

You may re­call my fa­ther writ­ing a few col­umns in the past about the lit­tle fish that swim in large schools called men­haden. They don’t have the same kind of name recog­ni­tion as striped bass, but they are an im­por­tant fish within the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay ecosys­tem.

You won’t find men­haden on the menu at Stoney’s or Cap­tain Billy’s. They are such a small and oily fish that they aren’t con­sid­ered ap­pe­tiz­ing or even fit for hu­man con­sump­tion.

In­stead they are used as bait in crab traps, turned into hu­man sup­ple­ments like fish oil vi­ta­mins and ground into fish­meal for pet food. It’s such an im­por­tant com­mer­cial fish­ery that it’s the sec­ond largest fish­ery in the United States by vol­ume.

When threat­ened, men­haden school to­gether in tight groups called bait­balls, and this de­fense mech­a­nism makes them easy pick­ings for one par­tic­u­lar com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion based out of Vir­ginia that uses air­planes to spot the schools.

We know peo­ple need their fish oil pills and pets have to eat, but men­haden are the foun­da­tion of the food chain in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay. They are a key for­age fish for striped bass, weak- fish and blue­fish. Hump­back whales and birds of prey such as osprey and ea­gles rely on them. And men­haden help fil­ter the wa­ter be­cause they eat al­gae and plank­ton.

The ASMFC is tak­ing pub­lic com­ments on some key is­sues about men­haden man­age­ment, which is a very com­plex mat­ter be­cause men­haden are found all along the East Coast and 15 states must come to an agree­ment on how much to har­vest and where. While Vir­ginia har­vests nearly 85 per­cent of all men­haden, other states want their fair share too. Many states want to in­crease the men­haden har­vest for 2017 by 6.5 per­cent or even more.

The mat­ter is fur­ther com­pli­cated be­cause, while of­fi­cials re­port men­haden are not over­fished, the stock es­ti­mate has been ma­nip­u­lated to show a healthy biomass by count­ing older, heav­ier fish by weight and not tak­ing into ac­count the lo­cal­ized de­ple­tion of men­haden near the mouth of the bay.

As Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statis­tics.” To be brief, the statis­tics aren’t al­ways show­ing the com­plete pic­ture and if the men­haden pop­u­la­tion is de­pleted, then other fish won’t be plen­ti­ful.

You can read more about the po­ten­tial changes to the man­age­ment plan at the Coastal Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion of Mary­land’s web­page http://www. There is even a sam­ple let­ter you can copy at the bot­tom of the page.

The meet­ings where cit­i­zens can pub­licly com­ment are al­ready over, but writ­ing let­ters can be just as ef­fec­tive, es­pe­cially if enough peo­ple weigh in. Let your voice be heard and send your writ­ten com­ment to: Me­gan Ware, Fish­ery Man­age­ment Plan Co­or­di­na­tor, At­lantic States Marine Fish­eries Com­mis­sion, 1050 North Highland Street, Suite 200A-N, Ar­ling­ton, VA 22201

The dead­line is Jan. 4.

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