May 30, 2012

Good news for scallops

It's good news if you like to eat scallops!

An article in last week's Daily Press got my attention. Yum!

Is offshore Virginia truly " the most valuable wild scallop fishery in the world?" It seems that young scallops are thriving off the mid-Atlantic coast. Virginia Institute of Marine Science folks found an abundance of 2-year-old scallops in the first two of the year's five assessments of scallops. They are happily growing in "closed areas" off our shores.

So Virginia watermen can catch a good sized harvest of them in about three years. 
One survey in one closed area yielded more than 13,000 seed scallops (infant scallops, kinda like oyster spat). The experts say that anything over 100 seed scallops per tow is good, anything above 1,000 is excellent and anything above 10,000 is absolutely remarkable. No one is certain why such high numbers at this specific time.

Virginia watermen caught $70.2 million of scallops in 2010. That was 35 percent of the total value of Virginia's seafood lharvests for the year. So scallop-lovers are smiling.

Arsenic in chicken feed?

Yikes, arsenic is being fed to chickens? Since the 1940s? Why? It seems that adding Roxardine (a drug containing arsenic) to poultry feed killed "cocci," an intestinal parasite found in chickens. Side benefits soon discovered by the poultry industry were faster weight gain (growth promoter) and added color. So the practice continued even in chickens with no cocci, with many farmers exposed to arsenic too.

But yeah for Maryland--the first state to ban that practice. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley just signed legislation banning arsenic in poultry feed. The bill goes into effect in January 2013.

Thank you, Food and Water Watch, for working so hard to make this happen. But the poultry industry might take advantage of a loophole, so don't celebrate prematurely.

The Maryland legislation specifies “feed,” but not water. And arsenicals are available in liquid form and can be delivered through the drinking water. Oops.

Thank you, Aileen Weber, for prompting this posting.

May 29, 2012

Do Right Whales Have Rights?

There are an estimated 400 North Atlantic right whales left on this planet. But if the proposed seismic surveys to find potential oil and gas deposits offshore Virginia take place, their lives may be threatened.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is collecting public comments on its seismic air gun exploration just three miles from the mouth of the bay, the first step towards drilling offshore.

Air blasts might not be as devastating as dynamite. But happy fish prefer calmer waters. I don't know if there's a happy compromise in this situation, but I'm hoping that a VERY limited test can occur--not for months and not over hundreds of acres And that they find no oil or gas potential.

Perhaps then we can get moving on offshore wind turbines in my lifetime.

May 15, 2012

Talking trash

It is NOT always easy to be green.

Philadelphia knows how to recycle
Some cities know how to encourage recycling. Here's a funky recycling truck in Philadelphia that PT's art students designed. Talk about eye-catching.

Did you know that the average American generates more than 7 pounds of garbage each day—twice what we generated in 1960? That adds up to each of us leaving a whopping trash legacy of 102 tons on our planet over a lifetime. That is $50 billion in squandered riches off to landfills each year.

I doubt I can convince my book club friends to read the recently published book, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, by Pulitzer Prize winning Edward Humes. But I am getting a refresher look at America’s biggest export, $8 billion worth of scrap paper and metal heading off in container ships yearly, most of it to China.

That is our greatest untapped opportunity of the century. There is a 96 percent energy savings from reprocessing aluminum, 21 percent for glass, 45 percent for newsprint, and more than 75 percent for common plastics (Popular Mechanics).

“But I recycle” you say. Oscar the Grouch, who lives in a garbage can, knows the truth. Just half of the U.S. population recycles daily, and 13 percent do not recycle at all. Only about 33 percent of almost 40 billion glass bottles, and as few as 27 percent of more than 70 billion plastic bottles, are recycled each year (EPA estimate). About 4 million tons of plastic elude landfills and recycling plants each year, much of it ultimately washing into our oceans.

The U.S. recycles far less than most developed nations. We have an average recycling rate of 24 percent and send about 69 percent to landfills. On the other hand, Germany, Austria and Denmark send less than 4 percent to landfills, because they burn what is not recycled in modern low-emission trash -to-energy plants.

And lots of folks still break the “rules” by including plastic bags and non-#1 and #2 plastic bottles in their curbside bins. Those dadgum plastic bags belong in the collection bins in most grocery stores—NOT around the moving parts of the recycling conveyor belts.

And it is definitely NOT easy to be green when elected folks occasionally set up barriers. The York County Supervisors’ ill-conceived plan to charge homeowners who recycle at the curb more than $6 per month is a step backward—even if you consider the county budget. Yes, someone needs to pay for curbside recycling. But ticked-off residents who then choose to toss all their stuff in the trash will generate an increase in the “tipping fee” at the landfill. So it’s pay here, or pay there. Penny wise, pound foolish!

Plus, I hate to see recycling habits broken. Asking folks to drop off their recyclables at a county site is what we did back in the ‘80s.

Want to save on energy costs?

A recent report from the Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center had some enticing news for homeowners. They prognosticate that the average Virginia family could cut their annual electricity bill by about $500 by 2030--if they take sufficient energy efficiency measures.

One biggie is replacing old low-efficiency appliances with ENERGY STAR ones. You can deduct some of the sales tax. For example, if a consumer purchases an ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator for $1,000 and pays the 5% VA sales tax, the tax on this purchase will be $50.00. 20% of that sales tax paid is $10.00. This is the amount you can claim as your VA income tax deduction.

Click on the link above for more ways.

May 12, 2012

Eagles happy on the James River

We saw one baby eagle at first, hoped for two, and finally spotted three in the nest closest to our home. near the James River.

They don't seem bashful when we walk the trail near their nest.

They usually "fledge" and fly away on or near Memorial Day weekend. So they are on schedule--in spite of a warmer than average nesting period.

Also spotted one baby when we anchored in Mill Creek, VA, last week!

May 3, 2012

Goodlatte translates into "Bad Bay"

The Chesapeake Bay is under assault by something worse than sewage overflows and algae blooms. It's proposed legislation that is VERY misguided. And very misleading too, thanks to the word "improvement."

Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte introduced H.R. 4153, which he has deviously titled the "Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act." The Chesapeake Bay Foundation folks believe this bill could be the worst piece of legislation for the Chesapeake Bay ever introduced in Congress--because it destroys the federal-state balance that is driving Bay cleanup and end our hopes for a clean Bay in our lifetimes.

Possibly inspired by Goodlatte's initiative, New York Congressman Tom Reed and Congresswoman Kathy Hochul introduced H.R. 4337, the "Chesapeake Bay State and Local Backstop Limitation Act of 2012." This is an attempt to remove any accountability on the part of the Chesapeake Bay States to limit pollution and meet their own water quality standards.

I encourage readers--especially boaters--to protest these legislative attacks on the Chesapeake. Just click here to get started.

May 2, 2012

Ethanol not so green?

We (as in American taxpayers) subsidize "cheap corn" each year to the tune of $5 billion. And the U.S. is obliged (through legislation) to increase our production of ethanol in oder to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels into transportation fuels by 2022.

The ethanol debate has been going on for years. And we'll soon see ethanol composing 15 percent of our auto fuels soon.

Yes, it reduces the amount of "fossil fuel" gasoline that our cars consume, but at what price?

Very recently, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that 13 of that state’s 21 corn ethanol plants have been caught polluting the air or waterways, and sometimes both, and fined a paltry $5.1 million.

May is Asthma Awareness Month

Not only is this "asthma awareness month," but my doctor just renewed my albuterol inhalant for my asthma symptoms. That's a very recent diagnosis, and I am well beyond my teenage years.

And the proposed coal burning power plant just across the James River hasn't even been built yet. What's in store for me?

I have some friends in the area who are suffering asthma symptoms for the first time in their adult years. What's going on? I know the recent pollen season has been a doozy--even for non-formerly allergic folks, but something's in our air.

Click here for the current air quality in the Hampton Roads area.

You can even sign up for air quality alerts by clicking here.