tv Earth Focus LINKTV November 10, 2016 1:30am-2:01am PST
>> my husband omar and i have lived at least part time on a tribubutary of the bay for r abt 30 years, so i love cruising on the bay, i sail on the b bay. and i love discovering all the thingngs that the bay hasas to offer. it's my bacackyard, it''s my playgrground, it's s personal to me. despite all sorts of efforts, and l legislationons, and gooood intentions, the b bay is still dying.g. in fact, on our dock, i was just
noting yesterday when i went out and looked--we h have a dead zone righght at our d dock, there's nothing growing g there. when most people think about the oyster, they know t the storiesf the oystermen. they know the story of the watermen and all of their problems over the years, but thehey don't know so o much abobout the ecological l value of the oyster. it's a great filter of the bay, it's responsiblele in some ways for the health of the bay, and one of the most interesting things, to o me, was thatat an oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day. and what it actually means is that the oysters eat algae, d w when u get o much alg it smotothers the oysters, it keeps out the sunlight, you can't do photosynthesis, and if we can support the ecological value of the oyster as much as the consumer value, we're doing a great service to the bay.
[crickets chirping] >> it's the first day of oyster season in maryland. and the tongers are out in full force in broad creek, a tributary of the eastern shore's largest river, the mighty choptank. >> hand tonging is a traditional method of harvest. it takes somebody who is tough and has a great love of the water to do it. they enjoy being who they are, what they are, where they are, and doing what they're e doing.
it's a prettyty good way to sped yourur life. >> you get up early, you get to see things that people that work in offices don't ever see. it feels self f rewarded, you know, it's good. it''s good. >> you're your own boss and you can go when you want. [chuckles] quit when you want, start when you want. if i had to start all over again i'd probably be the exact same thing. >> well, kurt's rigight that hes his own boss, within the limitations imposed by the state of marylyland. he can fish for oysters from october 1st t through march 31st from s sunrise until 3:00 p.m.,, except in january, when he can tong oysters until sunset, which is not much later than 3:00. he's limited to 15 busushels per day, per person, or r 30 bushels per r boat. and the oystersrs he catches hae toto be at least 3 inches.s.
while the hand tongers work the shallower waters at broad creek, divers and patent tongers with hydraulic controls and larger rakes search for oysters in deeper waters. in november, the power dredgers join the tongers for the rest of the season and are bound by even stricter regulations. dredgers include the few remaining skipjacks that once filled the bay. under sail, skipjacks can haul in 150 bushels per boat, but if they use motorized push boats, which most working skipjacks do, they can only dredge your oysters two days a week. >> and the draw of being a waterman was that big day, and t that's been takaken awayy through regulations and it's very difficult. it's a lot more regulations, a lot less profit in the business so, a lot less opportunity to have big days,
they're very regulated, no matter if you're able to cacatch $1,000 worth in oysters, where you could t that in the past, you're scheduled you're going to make $300 at the best, no matter how hard you work, you stop at $300. >> there's been a long history of tension between watermen and state government over fishery management and regulation. why? because watermen want fish, and the state wants to save the chesapeake oyster from extinction. it's a complicated situatiion. >> they've put new restrictions on everything just about every time you go out, every year, you know, and... they probably don't want us out there, to be honest with you. >> there's watermen tong broad creek, millions of oysters remain off limits in the next tributary, harris creek. >> one of the key strategies for expanding ththe bay's oyoysr popupulation wasas to establishn protect a networkk of continuous
oyster sanctctuaries throughout chesapeake bay. in 2010, departments set aside 24% of the bay's ggood oyster grounds to be permanently protected from harvesting. >> well, the sanctuaries i'm not in favor of them because they took 25% of our bottom away from us, b i it was 7575% of the most producuctive b bottom that we h. so, i mean, it really put an impact onto the commercial fishery. i believe that we could achieve a better effect while having a managed reserve. and they could be openened up pn you u have new market, like just beforere thanksgiving for yourr thanksgiving orders, and fofor christmas for your christmas orders. and that would really help the industry. >> because they do get opened for harvest periodically, you'u're notot going to have the developmment of the 3 dimemensil reefs that you wouldld get over time in a permanent sanctuary where that vertical growth of oysters is allowed to build upon
itself over time and provide that 3 dimensional habitat. but everything's a compromise, i think you need to mix in a consideration for the fisheries and a consideration for the ecosystem. >> i understand watermen's frustration of seeing areas that they c can't w work to have oys, but the ultimate goal is long term survival of the e resource and the lifestyle that it has supported. >> ththere have been oyoyster regulations in maryland for over 100 years and there's always been resistance from the watermen, butut with the public resource it has to be managed for everybody, not just for a select t few peoplele. >> oysters are important from a commercial point of view. they've sustained a fishery, they''ve sustained livelihood for people for r hundreds of years now. they're also extremely important ecologically.
>> sadly, thehe number of the bay's native oysters is estimated to be about 1% of historic peaks. from an ecological perspective, that titanic loss of oysters is a disaster for the health of the bay. >> we're trying toto achieve an increase e in the oyster population whichh will result in an increase in the ecosystem seservices provided by oysteter. we used to be able to filter the volume of the bay in a few days, now it's on a scale of a year. >> the primary pollution problem in chesapeake bay is nitrogen and phosphorous that come from a variriety of sources and whahaty do is stimulate a severe overabundance of microscopic plants called phytoplankton or algae. >> if there's too much algae in the water, that shades out sea grasses and bottom dwelling plants and they start to decay, and when they decay it uses up oxygen and then other things
start to die. >> that results in a large volume of the bay in the deeper water t that has no oxygen or insuffffient oxygen to support higher life, we cl l it the de zonone, and th canan beup to 40% of the volume of theayay in the summer, sthisis is seveve asslt to e sysystem >> t the oysters areemovingg ththat algae, clearg up t the wateter that lets nlnlight penetrate deeper to sea grasses and other bottom dwelling plants so that they can photosynthesize, the more oysters you remove from the system, the less filtration power yoyou have. >> so, when we're restoring oysters to the bay, oyster reefs, oyster bars, oysters in numbers approaching what they might have once been, you are replacing that filter. >> restoration is almost the wrong word to use, i'd say,, because it assumes we're going back to some time in the past.
there's no getting back to the way things were. we don't have the water quality we had, but we have, you know, millions of people living in the chesapeake bay watershed, and so it's not feasible to go back. the way to look at it is, where do we want to go from here under the conditions that we have now. we want to restore oysters in our sanctuaries to particular densities. we're looking at a density of 50 oysters per meter squared, and that's pretty high. >> maryland's plan for restoring oysters in permanent sanctuaries dovetailed with an executive order by president obama to protect and restore the chesapeake bay. the implementation strategy calls for a collaborative restoration of 20 targeted tributaries by 2025. >> it's a phenomenal collaboration that we hadn't seen before that's most notewortthy because it's tryinng to establish whole systems, not just individual reefs.
and you've got the national oceanic and atmospheric admiministration, noaa, involold in a lot of that planting and monitoring. >> the red line is a sanctuary boundary. >> you've got the corps of engineers involved and planting substrate. you've got the university of maryland involved with their oyster hatchery and producing seed oysters. a non-profit, called the oyster recovery partnership, planting those seed oysters on that ground. and you've got the state of maryland's department of natural resources pretty much serving as the quarterback for all of that. >> the first targeted t tributy was harris s creek in talbot county on n maryland's easstern shore. ththe plan calls for resestorin7 acres of oyoyster reefs in harrs crcreek at a a cost of 31 millllion dollllars. >> we chose harris creek because it had the greatest likelihood of success. the water quality is good, we have good salinity
here for oysters. therere's not muchch runoff comd to other areas of the bay. it's a different approroach than wewe've been takingng in the pat hahaving these small scacattered projects,s, have one very largre projecect, and so we took alalle production from the hatchery this year that was going to go to ecological restoration, and we put it all in harris creek to try and jump-start the population here. >> this past year, the partnership was able to produce 1.2 billion oyster spat, which i'm m not aware of any oyster hatchery for t this specs of oyster thahat's ever been abe to do that in a single season, so w we're pretty proud of that. maryland d dnr brings the shell here, it's aged for a year so that the organic matter can rot off of it. itit's then washed and cocontainerirized by tthe oyster recovery partnership. it's put in our setting tanks, and we add hatchery produced larvae to them, and we let the spat set on those shells.
>> these are some hatchery plantings that were put out two years ago, and you can see how much they've grown in two years. >> you can see on this cluster, the muscles we have growing here, the barnacles. it provides habitat for a number of different species that are growing on the shells. these oysters were dredged from harris creek as part of the 2013 fall survey of oysters. >> 62. >> 61. this year we've visited over 260 bars and took well over 300 samples. what we found in the fall survey is tremendodously encouraging. at least in certain areas of the bay, oysters seem to be thriving. >> from the survey, mitch tarnowski and his team create a biomass index based on oyster abundance and weight. >> t the biomass index has increased to a point where it's
the highest in the 23 years that we've been measuring this. >> that's great news for the watermen as well as the bay. watermen were expected to see their best season in 3 decades. based on the first two months of the 2013-2014 season, harvests were estimated to be as high as 500 thousand bushels, although the cold and icy winter may put a chill on expectations. 500,000 bushels is a lot of oysters, but still a drop in the bay compared to harvests before 1980. so what happened to the oysters? when you look at the chart of diminishing harvests, it's easy to assign blame to watermen for over fishing, and no doubt there was a gold rush on oysters for centuries. but it took more than over fishing to cause the flat line that defines a dying resource in the first decade of this century.
>> we weren't over fished because what happened was when the disease came in and killed the oysters that we had, it t wiped it out. >> two protozoan parasites are major pathogens of oysters in chesapeake bay waters. one pathogen causes a disease known as dermo disease, and the other pathogen causes a disease known as msx x disease. >> the first time that oyster disease really became a big deal in the region was in 1959 when we had this explosion of msx activity. >> that was the first time disease decimated oyster harvests in modern times. but it wasn't the last, and it wasn't the worst. >> oyster mortalities from both msx and dermo disease occur in chesapeake bay during drought years when water salinities are elevated. >> you have a drought, i pretty much bet my life on it, me and a l lot of other peopopl, if you have e a drought for 2 o3
yearsrs and the water gets sasa, i bet they die. we've seen it too many times. > the most recentnt period of high mortalities from both diseases occurred during a 4 year drought between 1999 to 2002. >> during that time, we saw the highest levels of f both msx and dermo disease of maryland waters on record, and we also saw the highghest levels of non-fishing m mortalities by maryland chesapeake bay oysters. >> the reason we use the rectum is because that's where you usually see the first signs of dermo disease. >> fortunately, the levels of disease detected in current populations of oysters are relatively low. >> during a full survey, we go to 43 bars, which are didisease monitoring bars. this year, we found that disease has been at an extremely low level once again. >> just put them there and... >> unfortunately, there is no
real prevention or cure for these disses. they could come back at any time and wipe out substantial numbers of oysters in the public fishery and in the sanctuaries. >> 98, 6. >> the spat that we produce in the hatchery here in these tanks is grown in such a way that it doesn't leave here with any disease in it. >> when you move the seed oysters from a wildld site to another site, you're not only moving the oysters, you're moving the parasites that cause oyster disisease with it. our oysters do not carry any of those parasites with them. they're notagic super oysters, but at t least wewe'veve startem out w with a bebetter sisituati. >> disease-free baby oysters may be more resistant to msx and dermo, but they'rre not immune. most adult oysters carry some level of disease. there's no way to create a wild oyster that is going to b be entirely free o of these diseas. what we need to do is think about management strategies
where we will promote the development of natural resistance to these diseases. designing s sanctuaries, you kn, settining aside areas wherere te oysters can basicalllly work things s out with the parasitit, with m minimal human interfefer. >> maryland has one of the most substantial oyster restoration programs in the world, and they deal primarily simply with the maryland portion of the bay. virginia's answer has been to ggo into oyster aquaculture. so, , maryland and virginia have two different approaches, although maryland is now also getting interested in the aquaculture aspect of it. 99% of the oyster r product t tt comes out in the world is from cultivating oysters not from fishing them in a natural sense. here, of course, it's, you know, we're still just making the transition from fishery
to aquaculture. >> maryland is very late in getting into this game, primarily because the state of maryland was very prorotective f the watermen's traditions and the heritage. the new lease lawaws were changd inin 2010, and the statete of maryland began acceptiting new lease e applications. about 50% of the applications were from watermen, and that connues to ththis day. one being robert t. brown who is ththe current president oof the watermen association i in mamaryland. >> aquaculture, it's a nunumberf people who have started [indistinct]. it's a way where wewe can keep oysters on the market. it's a way that we help put more oysters into the bays and the rivers to help filter the water. it's a good program. >> scrolled up a load of these freshly picked up oysters. maryland's finest.
>> if we want to eat oysters, we should grow them like we do everything else that we eat.t. >> ah, ththere we go. >> we don't go out, and hunt, and gather anymore because there's very few resources that can sustain hunting and gathering anymore, and oysters is no exception, and the natural resource e probably shod be left for r its ecological vae where it t belongs. >> these are farm fields that we're trying to get going. underwater farm fields. and farming is a good industry. >> eric wisner and his uncle, mike lindemon, have about 360 acres of leased bottom in the nanticoke river. they dredged the public fishery during oyster season, and harvest oysters from their aquaculture beds the rest of the year. >> for the past 3 years we've been putting around 50 millioion baby oysters on our leases. and each one of those oysters
has the potential of filtering 50 gallons of water a day, and once when you start doing the math, you start entering into the trillions of gallons of water that get filtered just by your little operation. >> starting a lease is extremely challengingng because you a are tasked with taking bare end bottom and improving it to the point where you can harvest oysters. >> eric wisner had to add 4 inches of substrate before he planted spat on shell in his oyster farm. his investment seems to be payiying off. hehe saw some markrket sized oys in about 18 months. another challenge to restoration for both sanctuaries and aquaculture is shell. at one time there were hundreds of shucking houses in maryland, but today, there are only a handful, and only one year round operation, harris seafood on kent island. >> up until the last 3 years, we sold all ourr shell to horn
point, they used it fofor their resstoration efforts down there. now, in the last 3 years we have moved all our p product to private aquaculture farms. they're buying that shell to premium. >> 4 years ago, we were able to buy y all the oyster shell w we wanted for the state of maryland for 25 cents a busushel. our coststs in that time period have g gone frfrom 25 cents a bl to $2 a bushel. we are in such short supply for oyster shells that as projected now, we will run out of oyster shells in this state in about 3 years, and we'll be forced to shut down the state's oyster hatcheries. >> one of the most valuable commodities that we haveve right now in the oyster indndustry is the shell. in its natural life cycle, the oyster spends around 3 weeks swimming around and at the very end of that process, actually, develops a little foot, and it-- at that point in its life stage, will start to drop to the bottom of the bay and look for areas to attach, typically that would be other shells from--in an oyster
reef. in aquaculture, we can give it a substitute oyster shell in the form of these tiny little pieces of shell. each of these are probably only about 5 times larger than the larvae itself. and because the shell chip is so small, when it grows up, it's basically a single individual oyster. >> we're going to was this--this microcorch which is a 300 micron in size down through this 500 micron screen, and the oysters that are--have grown larger than 500 microns will set on this screen while the shell just goes through, so we'll [indistinct] off the oysters from the shell. so what we're doing here is just washing right on throrough here. once all the shell gets washed through all we'll have left are the oysters themselves.
>> dr. allen is revered for developing the triploid oyster. a sterile oyster that doesn't become thin and watery in the summer months like a reproductive oyster does. >> oysters have been described as reproductive machines inside two shells, and so, if we can shut down that reproductive mechanism, we can get the oyster to devote that otherwise reproducuctive energy into beina robust and meaty oyster. >> so, what that does for us as an industry is, first of all, it gives us an extraordinary oyster. it's 30 to 50% higher meat yield. it grows so fast that those diseases, really, don'n't hahave time to kill it. and it doesn't spawn so it's available year round for consumption and for sale. >> ecology and culture often clash when it comes to managing oysters. when you come right down to it, watermen, scientists, and everyone who lives in the
chesapeake bay watershed, all want the same thing, a teeming, healthy, sustainable bay. oyster restoration is one giant step toward that goal. >> "spat" is the title of my film and that's appropriate for my film because there cecertainy is a spapat between the watermrn and the scientiststs on how we mamanage oysters. the watermen want to fish tto earn a living. the scientists, on the other hand, are very dedicated to bringing back the oysters on the bay. we want to support the watermen, and we want to support aquaculture, and we want everybody t to love oysters because t the more they love oysters, they'll care aboutt them, and theyey'll care about e bay and want to know more about how we e can prototect them. i guess what i was trying to say in this film was that everything we do on the babay,
[applause] tom goldtooth: this is my home. this is our home right there. it's the mother earth. everything around here has life, has spirit. there's spirit to the trees, the ground, these plants, even this air and the wind, the wind that blows. [applause] oh. [speaking native language] hello, all my relations. [speaking native language] [speaking native language]