Fisheries biologist Marty Gary tells Nestor about the blue invasive catfish species that was brought to Virginia more than 50 years ago and how it’s now eating our Chesapeake crabs before they can get to us. A Maryland Crab Cake Tour stop at Faidley’s full of education and what happens when you don’t listen to scientists!
oysters, crabs, fish, catfish, chesapeake bay, virginia, maryland, water, potomac, river, pound, eat, fishery, years, cat, potomac river, farm bill, good, chesapeake, catch
Damye Hahn, Nestor Aparicio, Marty Gary
Nestor Aparicio 00:00
What about W en s g TAS Baltimore and Baltimore positive or positively. At the John W Fei Li Si Fu robar oysters, clams, beer and crabcakes since 1782 the old legend market path to move into the new Lexington market. It’s all brought to you by our friends at the Maryland lottery be giving us away. Bill Cole has left the building. Damien’s gonna be back a little later on talking about the market the futures market. Our friends at window nation are still with us. The floppy hat is here 866 90 nation you buy two to get two free you get two years 0% financing in preparing myself. For Fourth of July weekend we had a very famous segment we filmed here 3 million people clicked on Jamie’s hands showing me how to properly open a crab. And I think a Fourth of July weekend I want to focus on the bay talk about water a little bit and fishing and preparing fish and eating fish as well as the market. Marty Gary is something that involves the Potomac and fisheries and commissioning. What do you do other than be related to the molar family live in Kingsville? Tell Jamie how much you’re going to be eating her crabcakes up the street.
Marty Gary 01:10
Well, thanks for having me on Nestor. So I am a fisheries biologist by academic training. I’ve worked for almost 30 years for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. And Annapolis in their Fishery Service as a fishery scientist and manager worked with crabs oysters, fish of all different types in the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean primarily during that time. About 10 years ago, I went to take a job at a little agency that not many people are aware of, but it’s been around since 1963. It’s called the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. That little agency is located in colonial Beach, Virginia. So you go down Southern Maryland, through the plate across the Knightsbridge which has been rebuilt. You go over into Virginia near Dahlgren, and you go about 10 miles south, that’s where colonial beaches, that’s where my office is. And the agency is pretty interesting because it was created in 1963. Over a fatality over oysters, oysters were being poached on the Potomac River back in the 40s in the 50s. And some Virginia poachers were out on the river, a young Maryland natural resource police officer at that time that was called the oyster Navy back in those days, came up on this group to to apprehend them and in the process of poaching oysters. And that group made a run for it. And a young officer shot and fatally killed a 26 year old Waterman from Virginia that made the headlines the next day and the two governors got together and said we’re nobody’s going to kill anybody over oysters anymore. So they got together and created this little commission that I now run. And John F. Kennedy say, signed the enabling legislation and in 1962, and we held our first meeting in January of 1963. I’m only the third person to run that agency since 1963.
Nestor Aparicio 02:58
Well, it’s amazing to me the I guess waters that run between states or water between countries, especially countries that might or might not get along or states where governors are fighting over this or that the Chesapeake and the tributaries and sharing water that somebody dumps something in Pennsylvania and it shoots down into Maryland, right? Like in the water so sacred right? I don’t need to tell you that having been out there from a food source from factories polluting from my old man worker down at the point and I have to Tradepoint Atlantic people on all the time just how sacred water is and that that needs to be managed.
Marty Gary 03:37
Yeah, and so this agency runs so we manage the fishery resources Maryland it’s important to know Maryland owns the river to the Virginia mean low watermark so the Virginia shoreline, but they formed this agency over this conflict on oysters so it could be co managed because as you would guess, people leave from Virginia. They’re Virginia residents, Virginia Waterman Virginia fishermen crabbers, etc. They go out both sides use the river. So Maryland, Virginia governor’s got together formed this agency to co manage the fishery resources. So our jurisdiction starts at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and goes down to where the Potomac meets the Chesapeake Bay. It’s about 100 miles of river. So we have crabs, oysters, all kinds of fish shed, striped bass out. sea trout trout. Okay. Not not further up the Potomac. It’s a great trout River, as you know, he talked about Dan Rodricks and floating out on the on the north branches,
Nestor Aparicio 04:32
and that’s really West Virginia up there too.
Marty Gary 04:35
Right up there. It borders West Virginia. But yeah, so I’ve been managing this agency now for about the last 10 years after leaving DNR and we’re part of the interstate group called The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. So those are the states from Maine to Florida, that manage all the migratory species like shad and striped bass, also known as rockfish locally, and a whole host of other species. So I’ve been down there and it’s again It’s a little agency not too many people know about it. But I spent almost 30 years with DNR so I know a lot of the water men and a lot of the fishermen around the Chesapeake Bay.
Nestor Aparicio 05:08
So I’m the village idiot from Dundalk. That’s, you know, through a chicken neck out on Bear Creek. I’ve thrown a fly into the water. I mean, I’m not out on the water. I eat fish. I talk about fish, obviously the crabbing industry something last couple of years with Hu BBSes. And, you know, piggeries and going out of business and Crab Meat going to $60 a pound and all of that. What does my audience need to understand not about your job, but about the water and how it affects the economy and how it affects you your ability to eat local, local fish. And, and there’s so many that snakeheads in the news, right? I mean, Jamie talked about the cat fish. And I know, either West Morris talked about that. I’m gonna talk to him about it when I get him on next month. What do people need to know about what’s going on on the water?
Marty Gary 06:00
I think the simplest answer to that question Nestor is it all comes down to two things water quality, how clean the water is, and habitat. We have millions and millions of people that have moved to this watershed because they want to live near the Chesapeake Bay, they want to recreate on the Chesapeake Bay. And they want to eat the seafood resources from the Chesapeake Bay. And we don’t have good clean water and we don’t have good habitat for those aquatic species, like crabs and all the other oysters and fish that we have, it doesn’t matter. So my job is to manage the fishery resources, we want to make sure that not too many oysters or crabs are being harvested, we set limits where the bad guys often to set parameters on when and how much resources like crabs and oysters and fish can be caught. But we can’t do that if we don’t have clean water and we don’t have good habitat. So it’s really important to work collaboratively with all the scientific community, the politicians and the public to make sure that we maintain good clean water and good habitat. And everybody wants that right. Everybody wants to visit the Chesapeake Bay, if you get a chance to go out once a year, or you can go out you’re lucky enough to go out every day and you live down near the water. You want a good clean Chesapeake Bay and all the tributaries that flow into it.
Nestor Aparicio 07:15
I’m glad to live long enough to do the tour. I mean, I mean that sincerely. And you’ve been helpful so many people have just been kind to me reached out but over the last two summers of doing the 3030 in August specifically and driving around and how many bridges we went over people we saw with boats gear fishing, black people, white people, old people, young people, Asian people, local people, tourist all I mean boats that did from the from the Marlin down in Ocean City and seeing what that industry looks like in those people to like literally just seeing the most humble old couple sitting with a cooler with floppy hats on kind of like my window nation had just trying to catch fish you know, and I it’s a part of life that passed me by probably watching too much baseball, too much football too much hockey, you know, you you, you get pigeonholed into doing things but the outdoor life that part of it has been really enticing. My wife and I, my wife become a birder and she’s way more into hiking and doing all that things and, and even to bees, her dad, but the water part of the Chesapeake Bay. I have a friend of mine all that I know who moved to Kansas many, many years ago. And she brought her teenage kids back this week. They’ve never been to Maryland. So I think and like kids from Kansas, get a map and they see all this water, and they see the ocean. And mom’s telling them about there’s life beyond pizza and chicken fingers in Maryland, you can have seafood and crab and crab cakes and oysters and all these things. And I think to myself how blessed we were to be here to grow up here. But, but understanding and respecting I never really knew anybody that worked on the water. Like all my people worked at the point and stuff like that. My community wasn’t taking boats out and bringing fish back or bringing crabs back. But when you go into the eastern shore you see two way of life like literally for it’s how people feed this worth this stuff comes from right and Mr. Bill always says here he said, crabs one thing in the world that you know you can’t breed it you have to go out catch it in the wild. Marty carries here somebody you’re assigned assignment in your position again because I want to get your title right.
Marty Gary 09:34
So Nestor on my name. My name is Marty Gary. I’m the executive secretary for the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. So that’s a fancy title for the lead guy at the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. We’re a small group, there’s only five of us and we manage the fishery resources oysters, crabs and fish in the Potomac River from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to where it meets the Potomac, the Chesapeake Bay about 100 miles of river And we’re participatory with Maryland, Virginia, and management of the resources that are shared in the Chesapeake Bay under the Chesapeake Bay program. So think crabs, that Potomac, Maryland, Virginia can’t do it on their own. They all work together to do a winter crowd survey. Which then cuz I want to
Nestor Aparicio 10:16
ask you about that because I, are you I was gonna say, Are you the guys that tell me there’s one crab per 100,000, NIS, and this is going to be a good year or a bad year. And how in the world do we predict this? Right? But I mean, you can measure the eggs or the what tell tell me about this.
Marty Gary 10:33
So for for the crab survey, which has been really, it’s been in the news a lot the last couple of years because the numbers haven’t been as good as we’ve liked. A lot of attention has been paid to it. But in short, what happens is every year since 1990, during the winter, so December, January, February, there’s a survey done in Maryland and Virginia and in the Potomac River, where my jurisdiction is. The Virginia survey is conducted by Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, the Maryland surveys done by the Maryland Department natural resources, they go to 1500 sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay. These sites are randomly selected, they put a dredge overboard. The idea is crabs are, are basically dormant. They’re not moving around. So you can sample them. They’re in one place, right? It’s cold, they’re hunkered down, you can go in and sample and get an estimate and extrapolate that sample to Turman. The
Nestor Aparicio 11:25
100 is a lot. That’s right. That’s a real you’re scientists you’re buying. I mean, that’s a sample size. That’s not we’re gonna go drop something back River and see what we find. Right.
Marty Gary 11:35
So this was the 33rd survey that was initiated in 1990. And out of those 33 years, it’s that survey has been an accurate predictor of abundance for the following crabbing season. In other words, you get a survey shows X number of males X number of females X number of little baby crabs with juveniles, we call them and that enables us to predict what the abundance is going to be in the next crabbing season which has started. So the crabbing survey from this past year did show some positive news. Female abundance, which was up every metric was up. But it came up from last year, really, really low numbers. So we were very concerned last year, we’re still concerned that those numbers came up. But it looks like what the survey can tell us with probably 95% accuracy is are we going to have a good year or are we not going to have such a good year, and it helps us frame what we can allow to be harvested without overharvesting. So for instance, this year and in response to those increased numbers of crabs we saw in this year’s Winter survey at those 1500 sites I was telling you about. We loosened up our crab bushel limits a little bit. The crabbers are restricted and Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac as to how many bushels of crabs they can take per day. In the last couple of years prior to this year, we’ve cut them back. Because we’ve seen declining numbers in the survey. This year, the numbers ticked up, we loosen those up a little bit. So it’s a mechanism that allows us with high confidence to set limits for sustainable for debate Althea to make. Well to manage a sustainable crab resource
Nestor Aparicio 13:19
Marga mal O’Malley sat in this space, so about four years before the plague, so it was quite quite some time ago. And when I asked him what he’s most proud of, because he had a book about, you know, managing policy, basically managing the government. And it was an interesting book and very, you know, had a lot of graphs and different measurements, but when I asked him he said the thing he’s the most proud of is the bag and his work with the bay and how just important it is. And it’s it’s hard to make it a sexy topic, right? It’s only a sexy topic when crabmeat $60 a pound or when damy came to me a couple months ago to talk to me about cat fish. So this is something that I had not talked about last year the year before. I don’t know if it’s new or not snake heads were all the rage for a while $60 Pammi at COVID We’ve had you know all sorts of issues. What’s the cat fish thing and I never I grew up in Dundalk drove across the back River Bridge all I ever saw a cat fish coming out of that water. Now I don’t know why. I mean the poop plants over there that’s all famous and like all that. But when you fished in my neighborhood you only caught cat fish pretty much. Yeah. And that’s in the 70s now
Marty Gary 14:26
so we have cat fish that are native to the Chesapeake Bay. These are white catfish. bullhead catfish. They’ve been here their native native 1000s a year. Yeah, they’ve been here before as far back as we can. We can we know. But what happened about 3040 years ago was Virginia imported blue catfish, which are native to the Ohio Ohio and Mississippi River drainage is and they were brought in as a sport fish. These catfish get to enormous sizes they can exceed 100 pounds like carp Right are like bigger. Yeah. But people like to catch big fish and they like to hold them and demonstrate them and they like to show them off and like to eat them, I guess. So these fish were brought in as sportfish in the gym they implanted in are stocked in the James River and nine in the early 1970s seemed like a harmless exercise, right?
Nestor Aparicio 15:20
But it allowed it. I mean, how, I mean, we need to regulate one
Marty Gary 15:24
of my sister agencies in Virginia, which at the time was the Virginia Department of Game and Inland fish. Had a few biologists they got together and said, Hey, let’s stop these these blue cat fishes. Sounds like a great idea. They get big, and I think we’ve got something what can we do?
Nestor Aparicio 15:39
Yeah. Oh, look at that. She brought me shrimp salad. Now how am I gonna get radio done with much as I like to talk with this much food? I mean, you’re just like every other restaurants here. I know. I didn’t when I ordered. I said Bring me a couple like three oysters. She raised me dozen oysters, a crab cake and a pound of shrimp salad here. So I’m taking it all in. This is a crab cake tour. I mean, I don’t know what to tell you. But to keep going. You’re talking catfish.
Marty Gary 16:04
Right? So So back in the 1970s. I was 1011 12 years old. This decision gets made to bring these fish and they think it’s a great idea. We’ll bring them in, though. Fishermen will catch and they’ll think it’s wonderful. What they didn’t realize is these are an amazing predatory fish. Basically anything a blue cat fish can fit into its mouth, it will eat a large animal that’s 7080 90 pounds we ducks. Le Cormoran Selena, the elite seabirds, elite whatever. They can fit in their mouth. They’re incredible predators and people think a catfish is a slow moving, docile animal, that trudges along the bottom and kind of routes to get to the heart. Yeah, and that this animal is not like that. This is a highly predatory fish. And it reproduces unbelievably. So what we have as since the 70s, it gradually spread from the James River, to the York to the Rappahannock eventually into the Potomac River. And in 2018 and 2019, our worst nightmare was realized we had this inundation of rainfall that started in April of 2018. And it persisted until July of 2019. What all that rainfall did was, it knocked the salt content down in the water all throughout the Chesapeake Bay. Those catfish which were kind of pushed up in the rivers like the Potomac and the James in New York and the Rappahannock. They all were like, Oh, we can move around. Now all the salt, the salt contents been knocked down because they don’t like a lot of salt in the water. They’re freshwater fish from Ohio and Mississippi River drainage is. So these fish all of a sudden, there’s no barrier we’re gonna keep moving around. So in my river, the Potomac, where those fish normally were like from the route 301 bridge up, for the most part, are pound that fishermen dam by Point Lookout, if you know where that is, I do. They never caught these catfish. They’re calling me up saying Marty, I just got 3000 pounds of blue catfish at my pound net this morning. They had clearly moved down the river, they went out instantly as we saw, we saw it happening. And then and then they not only did they come down the river as they went out into the bay, and then they moved to every other river. So they went up into the Chester the Choptank, but the toxin, the Bohemia that everywhere that Patapsco they just went everywhere, that during that timeframe, it was like opening Pandora’s box. So so now we have a situation where this highly predatory, non native catfish is everywhere. And folks like me that study these things, along with our academic institutions like Chesapeake biological laboratories, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, all these folks are getting together and we’re trying to understand what the ecological implications of all this spread is. And we don’t know that’s the horrible thing. We there’s so much uncertainty over how much ecological damage the species that species can, can inflict. It’s really, really scary. Hence, Governor Moore, putting in that disaster declaration that to hopefully bring financial resources to help us better understand not only what the ecological damage is, how can we solve it, the one good thing as you all know, is they’re really good to eat. So that’s the silver lining, and up to about 3334 inches. The meat on a on a blue cat fish is is free of contaminants, as any fish you can get. It’s one of the best things you could eat. Once they get 3536 30 and bigger. They’re a little older, they’re starting the fish their bio accumulating some contaminants. It doesn’t mean you can’t eat them. But a large large catfish like that you probably don’t want to eat every single day or three times a week. You want to. You want to measure that. But the catfish that we’re catching commercially now, which are now becoming a kind of really major part of the income for commercial fishermen in the Potomac in my jurisdiction alone, not including In the tributaries that flow into the Potomac, our commercial fishermen caught over 3 million pounds of blue catfish last year. Almost all of them went to the Jessup markets where they were processed, and then they go out and they get disseminated, I guess, I don’t know, maybe at least get by some. So a lot of the processors in Jessup are cutting these fish coming out of the Potomac and elsewhere. So we’re making lemonade out of lemons. I guess you would say
Nestor Aparicio 20:25
you’re never gonna get rid of them, though, right.
Marty Gary 20:26
You’re never gonna get rid of it. I’m an optimist. I’m an optimist. And I do not believe you can extirpate these fish. I think they’re here to stay. But I will tell against can you get rid of them? Are
Nestor Aparicio 20:36
they here forever? I think
Marty Gary 20:37
they’re here as well. But the thing about snakeheads, we absolutely were, we were absolutely really, really concerned about their ecological impacts. It seems as though we’ve they’ve been around long enough that we’ve studied them. We’ve looked at their diet. And I’m not saying they’re not having an impact. They certainly probably are. But they’re not changing in a huge way. The trophic dynamics that’s a fancy term we use for the food chain and the food web, if they’re not changing that in a dramatic fashion. So it seems to us to me and my colleagues.
Nestor Aparicio 21:14
They’re not eating the crabs.
Marty Gary 21:15
I don’t think so. No, I’ve never heard snakeheads and crabs, you know, being kind of thing. They’re eating fish primarily. And mostly minnows and small sunfish and things like that. So, snakeheads, I’m not going to dismiss that they’re having an impact. They’re invasive. We should probably catch as many as we can. That’s another fish. As we all know, it’s delicious. Have you had it? I have not. Oh, my gosh, I don’t know. Somehow we have to get him a snake. People
Nestor Aparicio 21:41
have told me they don’t like it. And I’ve had other people tell me they do like it.
Marty Gary 21:45
I need to talk to the person who told you they don’t like it because I have yet to hear one person that say that.
Nestor Aparicio 21:51
It’s a white male fish.
Marty Gary 21:52
It’s incredible. It really is. It’s amazing. And we actually issue a commercial bow hunting license because that’s the easiest way to to catch them. You would think a net or a fishing rod. But folks go out at night with Bose. And they use lights halogen lights, and they fish sort of like a deer they termed deer in the headlights, they just freeze. And they bow hunt. I mean, they fill coolers up with them. And they get an extraordinary price per pound. I think the bow hunters are getting like $5 a pound for which for a commercial, commercially harvested species. That’s a tremendous, a little bit of people that
Nestor Aparicio 22:31
do this for a living because I just go over here and see rockfish and say on piste. It’s this much or, Hey look, it’s on sale or hey, you know crabs a little bit down this year. But pricing is what people see when they’re putting it on a grill or they’re they’re they’re feeding themselves with it. But what I saw on the crab cakes were especially get out of bed early in the morning. And in places like LA played in those places down on the water and near your bridge. This is a way of life for so many people in the state that go out. And to your point five hours of pounds better before dollars a pound. And if you can catch the fish, catch the fish and if you’re feeding people feed people. How many people do make a living doing this? Yeah, I
Marty Gary 23:11
wish I knew that. Tony Conrad last
Nestor Aparicio 23:13
last summer talking about comrades when he you know he takes his boats out and does all that stuff. He offered to take me out in the morning and it kind of fell apart. My wife got sick. But I want to go do that. Because seeing what a day’s work looks like there. I’ve seen it on video. I’ve seen documentaries and all it’s a different. Most people in the city don’t have a concept of what that’s about. You see it every day.
Marty Gary 23:33
Yeah, so you asked a number. So it’s a small number. But so in the Potomac we issue about roughly 1000 commercial licenses. Some of those folks are on the water every day. Others are part timers in Maryland, I’m sure that’s maybe in excess of 10,000, maybe 15 20,000 commercial licenses. And again, there’s some people some commercial watermen, they’re on the water every single day. Others are on their part time. But there’s a to me, it’s a
Nestor Aparicio 24:01
crab, you do something, you do something else in the winter, right? Like literally Whoa, Easter
Marty Gary 24:05
they oyster in the winter. And we have had good oyster seasons the last couple of years. And hopefully that’s going to continue that. Well, I wish I had a good explanation for you. Because that same rainfall event that I told you that occurred in 1819 that resulted in a lot of mortality in our oyster population in the Potomac and in Maryland, not so much in Virginia because it stays salty down there. Oysters thrive and higher salinities when that rainfall event occurred, we lost a lot of oysters. So we really thought we were in for a long painful recovery. And that’s Mother Nature. And it’s all of its uncertainty. We had to say two, maybe three consecutive years, I want to say the summer of 1920 and 21 where the salinity was up, the oysters reproduced and everything came together magically and we had this great what they call spat set all throughout Maryland, Virginia. Oysters
Nestor Aparicio 24:59
now All right. Sure. Yeah, I
Marty Gary 25:01
mean, when they’re really little, they’re vulnerable to a number of predators. Primarily, like, there’s different mollusks, there’s things called oyster drills that will go into them. Crabs will eat crabs, love little tiny babies spat oysters, they love them, and they’ll chew them up. But what they, you know, when they reproduce well, which they did in 1920, and 21. You know, there’s plenty of food for the natural predators, and there’s plenty of oysters and they flourish. And so what we’ve seen the last couple of years are really, really a bump, the harvest have gone up in Maryland and and the Potomac. And Virginia has had really good harvests too. So things are going really well with oysters. Now, I would say we got a ways to go. We’re still managing, kind of in a cautionary way. We still use sanctuaries, which is a lot of people. It’s a big political, dynamic debate over how we managed to get more everybody wants more oysters in the bay, right? The scientific community, the Waterman themselves, everybody, we put everybody in a room and it’s a really fascinating conversation. It gets really colorful, but, but we tried to do our best to sit
Nestor Aparicio 26:13
here and eat fried oysters, but it fails. Yeah, and we want to just join us on the radio, I got shrimp salad crabcake you’re gonna have to help me eat some of this Marty Gary. He man he knows things about fish. He’s a biology. So fair enough to keep going with this because I’m fascinated by all this. Keep going.
Marty Gary 26:28
So but get back to your Waterman. Thanks. So traditionally, they were called Waterman because they worked on the water year round, and they would cycle through the seasons. And they would crab in the summer and they fish in the summer in the fall. And then they would they would oyster during the during the winter. And then there’s all different niche fisheries that occurred softshell clams were once abundant in the bay. Back in the 90s. Boy, we had them like it was in their great and love Manos are so awesome. But they kind of so things wax and wane and and then we’ve got this gorilla in the room called climate change which ask you about that. I mean, it’s a changing Bay, the bay is changing. And
Nestor Aparicio 27:07
you mentioned Sally nation, you mentioned air temperature, water temperature, predators, all of these variables that go into it. Nothing’s more of a variable than like, what the temperature is going to be. I mean, we all feel it’s the middle of June, it was 668 degrees the other day, you know, it’s crazy, how unpredictable it must be from a science standpoint, where you’re looking for control groups or, or you’re looking at history, history has got nothing to do with the future. Right? What What would a couple of degrees one way or another mean for the bank?
Marty Gary 27:41
Oh, it’s means a huge, huge amount
Nestor Aparicio 27:44
to science. Look, look at me, and
Marty Gary 27:45
we’re all I’m sitting here eating well, and you’re eating shrimp. And you know what’s really fascinating? This, the state of Virginia just started a white shrimp fishery at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. They were they were never there before. So coming up, yeah, they’re coming up the coast from the Carolinas and they’re fishing and I’m gonna
Nestor Aparicio 28:05
ask you why we’ve never had shrimp here. Why it’s just not hot enough. Right? The waters not warm today.
Marty Gary 28:10
Yeah, there are there are more temperate warm water species and it’s getting milder. We’re having these mild winters. And it’s always going to be I think, a little bit ephemeral. You’re gonna see some years better than others. But the long term trend is a warmer
Nestor Aparicio 28:25
by 100 years from now there’ll be shrimp in the Chesapeake Bay,
Marty Gary 28:28
maybe? I mean, who knows, but I think I wouldn’t bet against it.
Nestor Aparicio 28:35
We nourish 20 years ago, you said not possible to honor Sukkot
Marty Gary 28:39
and the takeaway really is as a warm, even just a little bit like a degree or two. There’s going to be winners and losers. We’re already seeing that. So for instance, flounder when I first started my career in the early in the mid 1980s. I used to go out with a commercial waterman and during the fall over in the Hooper islands we go out and you can guarantee they will be catching big flounders. They were beautiful. And we we I was like wow,
Nestor Aparicio 29:05
like a doormat, like
Marty Gary 29:07
but now we have little ones that use the estuary as a nursery area, but you don’t see the bigger ones. And what we’re seeing in the in the broader high altitude vision is these bigger flounders are moving north and an east into cooler water. They don’t they just don’t tolerate this warm water. The Chesapeake still functions as a nursery for the little flounders, but not the big one. So they’re a loser and examples of Flanders are more Long Island D kind of like an island is going to be a beneficiary jersey. Yeah, they they’re moving north and they’re moving east. So they’re an example of a loser. A winner is blue crab blue crabs thrive and warmer weather. They do have a longer growing season than we maybe we would have had 4050 years ago and climate change is helping crabs in a barrel. They’re out there helpful. The crabs crabs are a winner flounders are a loser in the end Some species or a metal of Baltimore
Nestor Aparicio 30:01
positive ones that you’d like to learn. You got to get on the mic if you’re gonna talk. Come around and get on the mic. The
Marty Gary 30:11
X Factor is these predators. We’ve introduced these.
Nestor Aparicio 30:15
Marty Gary comes on and Jamie’s like, I’m opening a restaurant, I got some things to do. And the next thing you know, she’s like, I’m having this conversation that you should have been on your game with. Because you’re the one that began with the catfish with me a couple months ago to learn. Have you learned into art? Yes.
Damye Hahn 30:29
I told him I said, You cannot. You cannot go on your crabcake tours without learning about what’s happening with the cat fish in the Chesapeake Bay. I said you got to educate yourself educate
Nestor Aparicio 30:39
the different kinds of catfish. They’re gonna catch fish.
Damye Hahn 30:43
Yes, it’s we have
Marty Gary 30:45
another catfish called flathead catfish, which are also not native and they they don’t get as much of attention. Because they’re more up in the rivers. They like hard rocky bottoms. But if you all were gonna go up to the Susquehanna Conowingo Dam, and spend an hour just sitting on the bank, you’ll watch a group of fishermen that go up there almost every day. And they catch these enormous flathead catfish that also gets 60 7080 pounds. And they’re kind of stuck up in the fish. Right? Well, I don’t know. I mean, I do think that Jessup processors handle a few of those, but not a lot. You probably know all of those folks are down there and Jessup, Pat Welch, maybe from Alliant. The JJ McDonald people. They tell me that they do handle some flatheads. But the yield off of those fishes and it’s quite as good. So they’re kind of like they’ll take them, and they taste fine. But the blue catfish are really that the one that’s driving it, and they’re the ones that are most abundant, and can impact the most areas of the Chesapeake. And so those are the ones we’re really concerned about. There. What there was a study, just quickly relating to the crabs, the first one, we all suspected it was true. But a researcher named Mary for free for Brizo, a professor down in Virginia Institute of Marine Science, just published last December, the first true study on blue cat fish predation on blue crabs, this was conducted in the James River, and it was astounding and eye opening the number of crabs.
Damye Hahn 32:13
Correct, correct. And it well, which is another reason why they taste so good you are what you eat. But then a good reason to get them out of there and get and eat them and our friends at Tilghman Island, you know that you went down to his processing plant, he is shifted completely to a cat fish this year. He’s not even picking any crabs, because he’s really adamant about getting that population down. Because it’s really it’s they’re struggling further up the bay with these catfish,
Nestor Aparicio 32:45
how far up or they go in now.
Marty Gary 32:47
What’s really there, they’re in every river. And it’s not so much they’re going up. They’re already up there up as far as they can go. It think of it the other way around how far down the rivers can they go because of the salt content, it’s a it’s a dry year, this year. This year, it’s so dry. I want to say it’s matching up with some of the records that go back like 7080 years, what’s happening is because it’s so dry, we’ve had so little freshwater inflow into all the rivers, that the salt content in the main Bay is spread up the salt wedge goes up the rivers, catfish don’t like it, they go up right there, push it up. But when we get rainfall, and we have had a little bit of rain, like in the last week or so that pull that push the salinity down a little bit soon as they sense that they start moving down more room salt they don’t like to solve,
Damye Hahn 33:37
but those those rivers are where we typically get our bigger crabs in the summer. And so, you know, as far as the crabbers are concerned, they’re, they’re, they’re, they’re battling between the cat fish and the crabs because they’re eating those bigger ones. You know, we got loads of little ones. We don’t have very many
Nestor Aparicio 33:57
bigs. BMF what’s the message to people?
Marty Gary 34:01
I think catfish, I would personally love to see everybody eating cat Fisher on a weekly basis a couple times a week. Every food card. Every restaurant should have cat local cat fish on the menu. I mean, and I don’t know there’s a marketing there’s they’ve made progress right in the last 10 years.
Damye Hahn 34:21
But still, we haven’t figured that one out. Yeah. I mean, we could call it something else. And we probably you know, everybody would make a fortune on it. Because catfish people have this connotation of being a muddy flavor because they are a bottom feeder. These do not taste muddy. These are days are getting up. And like he said they’re eating everything. They’re even eating eating all the baby rock. I mean,
Nestor Aparicio 34:48
five months we need to eat more catfish is that just katholischen is a problem. So I’m glad I got you out or Fourth of July weekend or at least Yeah, what’s warmers in on this to your point, but just what it means to to the state what it’s going to mean to crabs? Koi, frankly here?
Marty Gary 35:01
Yep, it’s a win all around if we catch more of these catfish if we eat more of these catfish and the largest animals, which again, what’s happening here they grow so fast. So fish that’s this big is only maybe three years old. Right? Right and but they get some
Damye Hahn 35:18
half the size of this tape Exactly. They’re this big. I know you’re looking at me like are you kidding me? They are. And then we have all kinds of other things coming up into the bay this year. We have drum tons of drum now they’re seeing over here in the fishermen say we got all these drum that we haven’t seen in years. The skate are up there eating everything. And so that all hurts this crap
Nestor Aparicio 35:43
is good. I know that. Yes. I like that.
Marty Gary 35:46
I I’m going to be the outlier on this one. We tried the skate Well, cownose Ray. We tried that, I guess with the Virginia Seafood Marketing folks, I guess it was about 10 years ago. And they came in with three different kinds. And I just, I couldn’t get past it.
Nestor Aparicio 36:03
I don’t know. Like fish.
Marty Gary 36:05
I do. That was the one I had struggled with, I think. But yeah, so I think with a catfish, it’s getting a lot of attention. I just, I just wish we could get that on every restaurants menu and get everybody on board with you know, I mean, I stopped him at least once a week to Wegmans Whole Foods sells it. I mean, Giants now carrying it otherwise, I’m
Nestor Aparicio 36:27
gonna check wise, wise markets, my sponsor,
Marty Gary 36:30
get wise if they don’t have them, get them on it. You gotta get catfish, but they gotta have a Chesapeake not farm raised.
Damye Hahn 36:36
Yes, not the farm. Right. So the farm raise is completely different. That’s the ones that they’re, you know, farming down in the Delta. Those are cheap and easy to get for the grocery chains. We need them to be buying these blue cat fish out of the Chesapeake. And that that is it’s a little more expensive. We’re just getting an MO probably get cheaper as they start really developing a
Nestor Aparicio 36:57
table we gotta you gotta take farm to table beta tables we need to do it right this is a perfect
Marty Gary 37:01
example that you can’t lose with it. I think
Damye Hahn 37:05
it is. You know, they can do so much with the with the fish the IV hotel here in Baltimore. Literally joined forces with some some purveyors and some processors and made a documentary on the catfish. Did you see it? I did not know they’ve they’ve just their chef. They’re really pushing it at a you know, hive mind, you know, our best you know, five star hotel here, pushing the cat fish on their menus, which you know, was really nice to see and they’ve made this wonderful documentary about the cat fish its impact and and then going forward, trying to market the cat fish.
Nestor Aparicio 37:46
I’m gonna take this I’m gonna make it a call. I need a new cause this year the orals are fixed. I gotta fix something else.
Marty Gary 37:53
You know, the paradox here is those farm raised catfish in the South. I went to school in the south. And there was cat fish restaurants all over the place and people eat it every day and they have cat fish fries. We’re not there yet.
Damye Hahn 38:07
No, and we’re not there yet. Hey, do
Nestor Aparicio 38:09
we do you know when the
Marty Gary 38:11
and the cat fish they’re using it the fish fries in the restaurants or farm raised in ponds and they give the fish pharmaceuticals right troll disease. These are wild caught no pharmaceuticals no nothing. And again, MD And Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Test the fish for contaminants. I’m telling these fish are as clean and as and as contaminant free as anything you can catch in the Chesapeake Bay. There’s nothing and there’s no methyl mercury because they grow so fast. You’re catching an animal that’s very young that has accumulated anything. So they’re very good and healthy to eat. It’s almost like a perfect. Again, I don’t know the whole lemon lemonade out of lemons deal.
Damye Hahn 38:53
I would make it with a little lemon, maybe some paper? Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. That sounds good. To me. One of the things that my friend Nick down at Tilghman Island, seafood when he was he was trying to really start a big processing catfish processing. He had a difficult time because there’s a law on the books a federal law that you’d have to have a USDA inspector when you got a cat fish. And understandably, this was meant for the Delta, it was meant for the farms so that they could, you know, control the quality of these pond raised catfish. It’s a completely different animal up here, but it stopped him from actually starting a processing plant two years ago, because they wanted to you you know, sometimes somebody might have 1000 pounds, somebody might five 300 Somebody might have 250 You can’t get an inspector to come in and watch you got these fish in order to process them. And it stopped him for a while and I believe they’ve worked that out.
Marty Gary 40:00
Yeah, that is an incredible story. And the nuts and bolts of it are that we got swept up in the USDA inspection process through the farm bill in 2017. And it was so Jamie right? Yes. Amy damy. Yeah. First time I’ve met we’ve met and I want to see a lot more of you because I live in Caden’s. Well, I can’t wait for the fishmongers wife, Amy. So to build on what Amy just said. So we got caught up in this this rogue wave we never anticipated called the farm bill with a special shift of catfish, all catfish in the United States having to be required to be inspected by the USDA. Now think about the average person doesn’t know what that means. USDA inspects Pete beef, poultry, pork, chicken, and because of salmonella and listeria, and all these other pathogens, those those facilities have to be pristine. And they’re inspected to have an inspector in there every day. The rigor of that inspection process is brutal. But in the seafood industry, they don’t have that level of rigor. The FDA was doing it we don’t have the contaminant issues and that you have to be careful of with beef, pork, poultry, so FDA did seafood, including cat fish, all fish, shrimp, oysters, everything, and USDA did meet. But because of this concern about Asian catfish flooding the market, undercutting the Delta produced Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama produced all these Farm Raised catfish and ponds. Because of that. The senators got together and said it was supposed to be under the auspices of health, human health. But truly it was a political issue. All these Asian catfish were coming in and undercutting the market. So they put inspection requirements on them that were more rigorous. And us the form rates catfish in the south could adhere to it. What they didn’t realize is it was going to affect the catfish.
Damye Hahn 42:00
The wild caught so so then think of a farm. They could say, all right, all these catfish are at our two pound minimum, we’re ready to cut them all. And you’re going to you’re going to have an inspector in to cut 20,000 pounds. That’s not the way we fish wild. Right? You know, some comes in one boat, some comes in on another boat, you’re not holding them, you’re going to cut them immediately. And so it was a struggle to balance. How do we adhere to this law and actually attack this blue cat fish problem in the Chesapeake Bay as a wild caught not a farm. Where are we now Adams?
Marty Gary 42:38
So where we are we’re still under USDA. But the cutters the processors have adapted to that process. Here’s my concern. So the harvesters sell to the processors, processors have adjusted to USDA, but we have just a handful of processors that are controlling the chain of custody. Right. So my concern is we don’t have enough flexibility. We did get the gentleman from Tulum. And I’ve never had the pleasure to meet him but heard great things about him. Wonderful. So that’s helpful, but he had to adapt to that USDA process to not everybody can build a facility that state of the art. Like if you right, you should go down and do a showdown Jessa and see the I mean, these facilities are absolutely mind blowing. But they can get here to it. But But I think our concern is, you know, we don’t have the flexibility, you know, to have a small cutter say I don’t know up in the upper eastern shore near Chester town. They’ve got to go to Tillman. Are they going to chuck them all the way over to Jessup. So I think we still need there is no real reason to have it under USDA. And we do have the farm bill coming up for another
Damye Hahn 43:44
wildcard, exactly. Cut out the wildcards use the USDA on all farms and cut the wild caught out. If it’s wild caught. It’s not the same issue. It’s wild. It’s not the same issue if they could just redo the verbiage on that we’re done.
Marty Gary 43:59
Yeah. And to that point, I went up on Capitol Hill to meet with at that time it was it was Richard Shelby from Alabama. The gentleman from fat Cochran from the Mississippi who has now passed away. Cochran and his staff were the gatekeepers, because he was on a budget appropriations committee in the Senate. And we got a meeting with with all those folks up on Capitol Hill. This was 20, late 16. And when we came up, we asked her exactly what Amy said a carve out to add to it to exclude our wildcard catfish. Just exclude them and let them be inspected through the FDA process. They looked at us across the table and they said why? And they said, we couldn’t we said because we have an impending ecological catastrophe on our hand. That was 2017. Right? And they said, Okay, where’s your proof? Where’s your data? Show me? Sure. We wouldn’t do it.
Damye Hahn 44:53
We said didn’t have the papers done. Yeah, we did. Well, the
Marty Gary 44:56
thing of it was that disaster occurred during that first we call it For shet, all that freshwater inundation I was telling you all about in 2018 2019. That’s when the gates went open. That’s when the fish went everywhere. Now we have an opportunity to go back and say what we told you in 2017. They
Nestor Aparicio 45:11
had been in the other area for 40 years, right? 50 years they had
Marty Gary 45:15
been using the invasive, right? They well, you mean in the Chesapeake drainage? Correct. Would they have been introduced in the 70s? But they were stuck down on a couple. Yeah, they were in the James, Rappahannock. They were in the Potomac. They were starting to see him because people were moving these things around, and they still do. We just knew it was a matter of time. It wasn’t if it was when it was going to happen. That’s what we tried to tell them. So when the 17 edition of the Farm Bill came up, we said this is the
Nestor Aparicio 45:43
part of the disaster but we were nobody listens to the scientists
Marty Gary 45:46
said that’s do the Cardwell one. Justice scientists, I think we’re all in that patch, right? And we said do the carve out and I don’t blame them. They were saying, Okay, show us your proof. We couldn’t. But when the first shot came and all the fish went everywhere now they’re everywhere. Now we approved the Farm Bill, guess what it’s been reauthorized at the end of this year. So I’m hoping Jamie Raskin. I don’t know if he’s going to be a congress. I mean, he’s in the house now. Right? He’s gonna potentially be running for Senate. We’re gonna find out. Yeah. So I mean, people like that can help us with the Farm Bill. So we have another card and Van Hollen issue right now. It is right now. Yes. So so we have an opportunity with the Farm Bill. Now, this next iteration, which I think is fall of 23. To do that carve out, Damien, we’re talking about. And I think now we have the proof we have everything we need, there’s there should be no way to refute everything we’ve been saying. But it was very interesting to hear that conversation is highly political. But that that I think gets us to a better place. If we get it back to FDA, then there’s a lot more flexibility for the harvesters to go to smaller cutters. We don’t have to be under the auspices of this very rigid, very rigorous USDA inspection process. educated me about it, man, and it’s hard to do, I just
Damye Hahn 47:04
have no idea what it takes to get their food to the table. It’s really it’s really amazing why it costs what it costs and why it costs what it costs. Yes. And that’s why I have these signs up that says that it takes an entire bushel of crabs to make one pound of jumbo lump. You know so so you know I don’t get that many crab cakes out of a pound that grabbed me. So you know this is this is what it’s taking. Somebody’s got to catch them somebody’s got to you know, process them pick them. It’s got to be brought up here and I only get one pound out of a whole bushel
Nestor Aparicio 47:37
to safe and to have it be you know, fresh and all that commodity carry Jamie Hahn I want to thank both you for coming by the Maryland crabcake tour lake that is a Maryland crabcake right here because I’m in faith these were down here let you to market the old market since he 1782 Maryland lottery bringing it to you I got a lottery ticket here has a lottery ticket for you. Would you like one here you go here you go here you curse the Maryland lottery see that? Bomer positives want to see and you’re given out lottery tickets. Oh, you didn’t want to Alright, here you go. A lottery ticket for you. One. I feel like Oprah when I’m here doing this. Take a break. We’re gonna come back. We’re gonna talk about the new market. We are in the old market here. Damien’s been talking about crabcakes here all afternoon. All of it brought to you by our friends at Windsor nation 866 90 nation you can find to to get two free 0% financing for the next two years. We’re going to be kicking off the 25th anniversary in Dundalk, my homeland and all gets the third will be a constitution a third we’re going to be drug city on the fourth. I’m going to have my crab mallet from Rascon global with the beer opener because how else am I gonna get the beer open to celebrate? Thank you very much. Appreciate you I love to Catonsville and you’re coming to Kingsville and yep, yep. So you want to open and we have a date
Damye Hahn 48:47
now next summer sometime but we’re permits are in so you know we’re waiting to hear from the county.
Marty Gary 48:54
Alright, so now it’s gonna be a great addition and we’re looking forward to Nortel
Nestor Aparicio 48:59
ever ask your restaurants here to bring you a little bit of shrimp salad and a little bit for fried oyster because you’ll wind up getting like all of this. This is the oyster here that inspired the 25th anniversary oyster tour. Yes. Yes fried oyster here. Do you read fried oysters? I do. Please have one to taste them. Yeah, absolutely man you gotta get
Damye Hahn 49:20
these are the wild caught Chesapeake Bay signs. These are delicious. So they are they’re yummy. That’s awesome. heartache, delicious. I don’t think people realize how good they are. They are so good. You’re
Nestor Aparicio 49:33
making the right way. Alright, so now scroll back from the bottom because right after this