Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper is dedicated to:
- Advocating compliance with federal, state, and local environmental laws and ordinances;
- Responding to citizen concerns about water quality and aquatic resource issues;
- Devising appropriate remedies for adverse impacts to tidal waters;
- Participating in coastal planning efforts;
- Evaluating water quality monitoring data;
- Educating the public about water quality issues and encouraging their involvement in management and planning efforts;
- Seeking solutions to water-quality problems resulting from activities associated with agriculture, aquaculture, recreation, and other industries;
- Seeking solutions in court only when problems associated with pollution and other adverse impacts to tidal waters cannot be resolved.
Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs)
As an adjunct to our work with ghostpots, and to further wildlife conservation efforts, Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper brings attention to the problem of mortality in diamondback terrapins due to being an incidental catch in active and inactive crab pots. We're trying to spread the word about the problem and the (easy) solution: installing turtle excluders on each opening of a crab pot. The excluders, also known as TEDs, have been legally required of recreational crabbers in Maryland since 1999 but are not required in Virginia. TEDs are not widely available in Virginia, so we have obtained a supply and are making them available to the public, crab pot makers, and retailers who sell crab trap supplies.
Crabbing and crab pots are ubiquitous throughout the waters of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Often, crab pots become lost; this may be due to a boat propellor cutting the pot’s buoy line, the buoy line simply wearing out through age, or the pot being displaced due to storms and wave action. The derelict pot or ghostpot goes on catching crabs, and will also catch turtles and small fish. This may continue for years, regardless of the state of the crab pot, in effect becoming a perpetual killer.
Ghostpot Busters is an initiative of Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper intended to get the community involved in removing derelict crab pots from the coastal waters of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. At low tide we scout and mark derelict crab pots from our kayaks; when the tide comes in we go back with the Shorekeeper patrol boat to pull them out, then dispose of them.
Since we started the Ghostpot Busters program a few years ago, the state of Virginia, as part of its Marine Debris Removal Program, began a short-term project to provide winter work to watermen by having them search for and retrieve derelict crab pots. This has been a great help to us on the Eastern Shore, as well as to other coastal Virginia areas. In the winters of 2009 and 2010, over 18,000 derelict crab pots were retrieved from Virginia waters in this program alone.
Monitoring what happens along the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s 613 miles of Atlantic Ocean tidal shoreline and 750 miles of Chesapeake Bay tidal shoreline is quite a challenge. Obviously, the Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper cannot patrol and monitor what’s happening on and to all of the creeks in this expansive area. Therefore, one of our most important initiatives is Creekwatchers -- a program where we assist members who take responsibility for monitoring a local waterway and become part of a network of trained volunteers who are the Shorekeeper’s eyes and ears in their locale.
We teach and advise our Creekwatchers about government programs designed to protect the coastal environment and help them work with people in their locality on issues that are important in their backyards. Among other activities and concerns, Creekwatchers help the Shorekeeper monitor development projects dealing with such issues as stormwater, wetlands, and erosion control. They make sure that the projects comply with various state and federal regulations, thus ensuring that environmental rules are adequately enforced.
Water quality issues are obviously a major interest and concern of Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper. We try to keep abreast of issues that affect or may affect our waterways, particularly through the eyes and ears of our Creekwatchers. That includes matters that occur along the shorelines, as well as inland throughout the various creek watersheds. Many of the Eastern Shore's creeks are subject to shellfish harvesting closures and/or advisories as determined by the Division of Shellfish Sanitation of the Virginia Dept. of Health (VDH). From time to time the VDH re-evaluates and reclassifies these. It is worth noting that in recent years, sampling efforts by state officials have resulted in upgraded status for some of our creeks with regard to shellfish contamination/harvesting, and that in some cases, previous closures have been rescinded.
Education & Outreach
Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper believes that is important to educate the public about the threats that face our waterways, the consequences of inaction, and the opportunities to create positive changes. Therefore, we are always interested in ways to help spread the message about preserving and protecting our waterways. We regularly take advantage of opportunities to speak at civic events, community gatherings, school functions, and the like, in addition to having a presence at important meetings of local government.
Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper supports and in some cases assist various agencies and groups in projects or programs that will benefit area waters. One of these is the seagrass restoration effort that is part of the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program and which is conducted by The Nature Conservancy and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science