Share with the community this Christmas
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. ccamd.org/?p=2945. 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.