Commissioners discuss environmental summit
CENTREVILLE — Commissioners heard a presentation at their Tuesday, Dec. 11 meeting from Robert Newberry of the Delmarva Fisheries Association Inc. and Chip Macleod of the Macleod Law Group concerning the Chesapeake Environmental Summit.
Commissioners voted unanimously to give summit organizers $2,000 for the event slated to take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 15 at the State Senate Building in Annapolis, although the Clean Chesapeake Coalition and the Delmarva Fisheries Association Inc. had yet to confirm some details.
“This will be my 32nd year going to Annapolis, and it always seemed like the watermen, farmers and poultry producers were left out,” Newberry said. “This summit will involve the Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Department of the Environment, the Department of Agriculture and all of the watermen groups.”
The Delmarva Fisheries Association Inc., Maryland Watermen’s Association, Chesapeake Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Association and Maryland Oystermen’s Association will discuss issues such as water quality and conservation as one entity with state agencies.
Newberry said there is a critical oyster season approaching as well as issues with the fishing of striped bass, water quality at the Conowingo Dam and dredging in some locations. Financial support has also been provided by community organizations to help fund the summit.
The other main objective is to provide state agencies and legislatures with the correct information concerning fishing and the overall quality of the bay from those who work in it on a daily basis.
“When we make this presentation, everybody that comes will be able to hear the truth out of the horse’s mouth. I’ve sat at hundreds of these committee meetings and much of the information these agencies and legislatures have is misrepresented or misleading,” Newberry said.
Macleod, general counsel for the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, echoed Newberry’s sentiments explaining the organization’s involvement is due to many of these issues affecting the same entities.
“What’s happened over the last several years is we’ve been working on these issues where there’s necessary overlap,” Macleod said. “For example the health of the bay affects fisheries and matters of the oyster fishing means talking about the most effective way to replenish those (resources). This summit is going to give us a terrific opportunity in front of legislatures to talk about these items.”
Three panels will focus on economic and environmental challenges that face working farmers and watermen of Maryland amid ongoing Chesapeake Bay water quality improvement efforts.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation data underscores the importance of a healthy Chesapeake Bay with the economic impact to the region now in the billions of dollars.
The Chesapeake Bay is one of the few places left worldwide where an industry exists based on harvesting oysters from the wild. During the past three decades, Maryland and Virginia have suffered more than $4 billion in cumulative annual losses because of the decline of industries related to oyster harvesting.
Chesapeake Bay watermen supply as much as a third of the nation’s blue crabs each year. And the average commercial harvest in Maryland and Virginia between 2000 and 2009 was more than 55 million pounds yearly. In 2009, the dockside value of the blue crab harvest Bay-wide was approximately $78 million. Further, the decline of crabs in the bay between 1998 and 2006 has meant a cumulative loss of about $640 million to both states.
Striped bass remain the most popular commercial and recreational fish in the bay, generating roughly $500 million in economic activity related to fishing expenditures, travel, and lodging each year.
“This summit will let us frame these issues in a way we’ve been trying to advocate for them for years. For years, we’ve been nipping at heels trying to get people to listen about issues with the bay. Fortunately, with Gov. Hogan, he understands the extent of the problem,” Macleod said.
Robert Newberry, right, of the Delmarva Fisheries Association Inc. and Chip Macleod of the Macleod Law Group present the outline of the environmental summit.
The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners voted unanimously to give summit organizers $2,000 for the event slated to take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 15 at the State Senate Building in Annapolis.