Fishing

Promoting Sustainability through Community Engagement in Jamaica: A Peace Corps Volunteer’s Story

By Kevin Fath

My experience while serving as a Peace Corps agribusiness adviser in Jamaica provided me with unique opportunities to learn, engage, and research at the community level. I served in Bluefields, a small coastal farming and fishing village in Westmoreland parish in southwest Jamaica. I worked primarily with a group of organic farmers, promoting sustainable agriculture and introducing climate change adaptation strategies through community engagement. As a participant in the Peace Corps Master’s International program through Texas A&M University, I also conducted research on the vulnerability of local agricultural livelihoods to climate change.

As part of the community integration and learning process, I facilitated an assessment with the Westmoreland Organic Farmers Society, a local organization engaged in production agriculture and home economics. The results of the assessment helped us to better understand factors affecting the economic and environmental sustainability of their livelihoods. Through informal discussions with farmers, I also gained awareness of how changing weather patterns, such as variable rainfall, increased risk for these small-scale farm families.

In October 2012, Bluefields community organizations were given the opportunity to apply for small grants to support the development of livelihood opportunities more resilient to climate change. Designing a project and submitting a successful proposal was easier because we had already collectively identified and prioritized the needs and interests of the organization.

 

Kevin Fath working with two members of the farmers group (Westmoreland Organic Farmers Society Ltd) to set up the main irrigation lines during the development of the organic demonstration farm.

Kevin Fath working with two members of the farmers group (Westmoreland Organic Farmers Society Ltd) to set up the main irrigation lines during the development of the organic demonstration farm.

 

Among other things, the funds we received went toward establishing an organic demonstration farm, where the group erected a structure to catch and store rainwater for a drip irrigation system. The farm was also used to host a Farmer Field School where community members learned about organic farming practices, the potential impacts of climate change, and possible adaptation and mitigation strategies. The group was also able to purchase improved processing equipment and received food safety training, important steps toward establishing a formal agribusiness.

 

Brian (Kevin’s Rastafarian supervisor left, in blue hat) teaching how to make compost at one of the Farmer Field School sessions held at the demonstration farm.

Brian (Kevin’s Rastafarian supervisor left, in blue hat) teaching how to make compost at one of the Farmer Field School sessions held at the demonstration farm.

The group continues to develop and improve the farm, as well as their processing capacity. More importantly, they are increasing resiliency by adapting new technology to their own cultural norms and practices. Working side-by-side with my Jamaican friends to establish the demonstration farm was not only one of the joys of my life, but also showed me how difficult it is to cultivate marginal lands with simple hand tools; a reality for millions of men and women around the world.

During my service, I also designed a study to assess the vulnerability of local agricultural livelihoods to climate change. My hope is that the results will illuminate areas where targeted programs can improve farmers’ resiliency and increase incomes. The data I collected can also be used to measure changes in vulnerability over time. I hope the change we’ll see in Bluefields will be that of more sustainable livelihoods through environmental stewardship and human empowerment. This is a very possible outcome if the Jamaican men and women I worked with in the farmers group are any indication.

 About the author: Kevin Fath of West Salem, Ohio served as an environment volunteer in Jamaica from 2012 – 2014. During his service, Kevin worked with Jamaican farmers on sustainable agricultural practices. A participant in the Peace Corps Master’s International program, Kevin will receive his master’s degree in International Agricultural Development from Texas A & M University later this year. Kevin is also a veteran who deployed twice during his 8-year enlistment in the Army Reserve prior to joining the Peace Corps.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Community Engagement in the Philippines: A Return Peace Corps Volunteer’s Story

By Leah Ettema

Like almost any other coastal community in the Philippines, my Peace Corps site (Laoang, Northern Samar) is primarily composed of fishermen and farmers who report that their fish catch has drastically decreased over the past 20 years. This threatens their food security, income, and way of life.  During my service, I worked with my municipal counterparts to visit all 28 coastal communities in Laoang, where we held community meetings. We talked, listened, and worked with the fishermen to help identify the resources they still have, explore their problems, and come up with ideas for the future.  During these visits, I was able to briefly participate in the everyday life of coastal communities. I learned that even in the poorest of areas, someone will always have a generator to sing videoke, the fear of Aswang (witches) is very real, simple ingredients make delicious snacks, and basic street fair games are highly entertaining. Despite having an increasingly difficult livelihood, the residents’ sense of humor, joy, and resiliency is unwavering.

We compiled the results of our discussions into an environmental profile, which serves as the basis for future coastal resource management programs. We formed plans to enact a Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Council that would work closely with the local government to re-establish marine protected areas and to monitor the health of the coral reefs, sea grass, and mangroves. These plans also called for the enactment of a Bantay Dagat (coast guard) that would aggressively apprehend illegal fishers, as well as to encourage schools and households to segregate their waste for recycling.

What we, as Peace Corps Volunteers, worked toward was to develop the Filipinos’ abilities to effectively manage their resources to improve their standard of life. My Filipino co-workers (and friends) are inspiring, hard-working community developers, and will continue working to improve fishing resources and livelihoods long after I’m gone.

 

RPCV Ettema working with the women in Langob

RPCV Ettema working with the women in Langob

About the author: Originally from Frankenmuth, MI, Leah Ettema, RPCV Philippines, 2009-2011, currently works for EPA’s Region 4, (Atlanta, GA) for the Water Protection Division.

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Gone Fishin’

By Jeffery Robichaud

My boys have been bugging me to go fishing and I just haven’t gotten around to taking them (gotta get some licenses first).  Also our fishing hole (the creek down the hill) used to have a nice big pool at the bottom of a low water crossing but when they fixed it up for a new trail, the pool disappeared.  Now that they are older they probably wouldn’t be satisfied with the smallish sunfish we used to catch anyway.  Maybe I will take them down to the Missouri River to get a look at some Asian Carp.

With the weather finally warming up you might be taking your kids out for this annual rite of passage.  Each of our four states (Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska) have wonderful programs to encourage and safeguard this fun pastime for the enjoyment of all.

Fish are an important part of a healthy diet, since they are a lean, low-calorie source of protein.  However some caught in lakes and rivers throughout the Midwest (as well as throughout the country) may contain chemicals that could pose health risks if these fish are eaten in large amounts.  EPA maintains a system that provides you information about Fish consumption advisories.

fishtissue

There are also a couple of easy things you can do to ensure fish are safe to eat.  It’s always a good idea to remove the skin, fat, and internal organs before you cook the fish (since this is where contaminants often accumulate).  As added precautions; make sure to remove and throw away the head, guts, kidneys, and the liver; fillet fish and cut away the fat and skin before you cook it; and clean and dress fish as soon as possible.  You can find EPA’s guide about eating the fish you catch here.

In future blog articles we hope to share with you information about Regions 7’s Ambient Fish Tissue (RAFT) Program, one of the longest running in the country.   Until then, Happy Fishing.

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.  His prize catch was a a 6am catfish as a youngster at a campground in Illinois (unfortunately he woke up everyone in the camp screaming for his father since it bent his pole in half).

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Around the Water Cooler: American Wetlands Month—and Your Dinner

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

ShrimpboatBayou country, located along the Gulf of Mexico, specifically Louisiana, has historically shaped the culture and the economy of the region. The Bayou—otherwise known as wetlands, swamps, or bogs—is an economic resource supporting commercial and sport fishing, hunting, recreation and agriculture.

Remember the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company? The shrimping business the fictional Forrest Gump started (and since inspired a real restaurant chain). Without clean and healthy wetlands, there’s no shrimping business, not in the movies and not in real life.

This month is American Wetlands Month and EPA is acknowledging the extensive benefits—or “ecosystem services”—that wetlands provide. From trapping floodwaters and recharging groundwater supplies to removing pollution and providing fish and wildlife habitat, wetlands improve water quality in nearby rivers, streams and lakes and even serve as a natural filter for our drinking water. They are the “kidneys” of our hydrologic cycle.

In Bayou Country, wetlands provide nearly all of the commercial catch and half the recreational harvest of fish and shellfish. They are extremely valuable to the region’s economy. Wetlands in the region provide the habitat for birds, alligators and crocodiles, muskrat, beaver, mink and a whole bunch of other important critters.

EPA researchers all over the country are looking at different ways to keep our wetlands clean and healthy. From nutrient pollution research and water quality research to buffers around rivers and stream habitat (“riparian zones”) and other green infrastructure efforts, scientists are ensuring that our wetlands can continue to do their work – providing a habitat, filtering out pollution, and supporting our economy.

This month, wherever you sit down to enjoy all the shrimp and seafood you can eat, remember that without healthy and clean wetlands, none of that would be possible.

For more information on how EPA scientists monitor and assess our wetlands, read here.

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry loves clean water, healthy beaches and great seafood. A regular contributor to EPA’s It All Starts with Science blog, she helps communicate the great science in the Agency’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Program.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Around the Water Cooler: Rivers offer food and fun (but only when clean)

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

This week, a colleague handed me the City Paper with an article about how thousands in the Washington, D.C. metro area eat catfish caught locally in the Anacostia River. The article saddened me for a variety of reasons. Mostly because fishing in our rivers, especially urban rivers, brings with it a host of public health concerns. Quite frankly, with combined sewer overflows and stormwater runoff flushing pathogens and chemicals into them, many of our rivers are kinda dirty. Yuck.

But despite the health advisories and warnings that consuming fish from the river can be hazardous to health, many people still do it. The article highlights a survey (partially funded by EPA, other government agencies and stakeholders) conducted to study fishing in the Anacostia  and determine the extent of consumption and sharing of fish from the river; awareness and attitudes among anglers about potential health risks; and, strategies for lessening the consumption of contaminated fish.

The study shows that the reasons people fish in the Anacostia are extremely complex, and are mostly related to economics and culture.

The good news is that EPA is working with local officials and stakeholders in Washington, D.C.  to clean up the Anacostia so it can be fishable and swimmable again. Earlier this year the Anacostia River Revitalization Fund was established.  The fund, which will invest $1 million in restoration activities this year, with a total goal of investing $5 million over the next three years, will be used to protect and restore the Anacostia River and to create a national model for watershed conservation. The National Fish and Wildlife Fund, in partnership with EPA and the DC Department of the Environment and with funding from corporate sponsors, created the fund, which will award grants to local partnering organizations.

In addition, EPA scientists have developed a variety of tools and models to look at ecological exposure.  This research on water is spread over several areas: detection, assessment, function, and outcomes so that we know what our water has been exposed to, can assess it and ultimately ensure that it is safe for drinking, fishing and even swimming .

The Anacostia River watershed is just one of many that need our help and attention to keep it clean so that it can once again be a source of food and recreation that we can be proud of.

To help protect your watershed, learn more here.

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry works with EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources research team and a frequent “Around the Water Cooler” contributor.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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It’s All About Connections

By Reginald Parrish

Growing up in Central Virginia, I spent many hours enjoying the natural landscape of the region. A favorite past time was fishing along the banks of the James River just north of Lynchburg. I recall being puzzled about why we were told to under no circumstance eat the fish. Still, the river provided a tranquil and relaxing spot — an integral part of our community.

In 2000, I accepted a position as EPA’s Anacostia River community liaison. The Anacostia River is a heavily polluted river that flows from Maryland and traverses the nation’s capitol, bordering historically disadvantaged neighborhoods. I conducted outreach to “east of the river” communities about how to improve the quality of the river and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. As I met with citizens, it became clear that these communities have more pressing concerns than restoring the Anacostia River–joblessness, housing, schools, public safety and economic development. As on the James River, I met many people on the Anacostia who fish as a pastime and consume the fish regardless of warnings.

EPA’s Urban Waters program reconnects populations with their local urban waters to accelerate the restoration of these waters. Over the past several years, EPA and other federal agencies have promoted citizen engagement in hands-on restoration through grants for education and outreach programs for schools, churches, and communities. The Anacostia is also one of seven pilot locations of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.

EPA’s Urban Waters program supports and advances other community priorities, such as education and jobs through environmental activities. To further this goal, EPA is renewing a Memorandum of Understanding to provide environmental training to at-risk youth with the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC). EPA and ECC are part of a broader local effort by Anacostia Watershed Society, DC Greenworks, Groundwork Anacostia, Living Classrooms, Washington Parks and People to make the restoration of the river relevant to community priorities – by leading youth to green skills and green jobs.

I participated in this program and had a very successful experience with Anthony Gregory who later received an internship with the National Park Service. Anthony is currently still engaged in work on the Anacostia and is excited about working to improve the river. Anthony’s experience is just one of a number of experiences that connect people to their places through ECC and EPA. I am happy to be a part of that experience.

About the author: Reginald Parrish is an urban programs coordinator based in EPA’s Region 3 Chesapeake Bay Program Office

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Project Healing Waters

By Trey Lewis

“The person who goes and the person who comes back are not the same. That’s just how it works. Even now that I’m back and everyone says I can get back to being normal, I’m still trying to figure out what exactly ‘normal’ is.”

When my brother e-mailed me this after returning from a year-long deployment to eastern Afghanistan, I knew he was struggling to return to some sense of “normal”. The past year’s rapid series of events in which my unit’s deployment had been cancelled and his unit’s had been expedited left me grappling from the outside to understand the unique situation of veterans returning to “normal”. Conventional approaches have helped many veterans, but too many fall through the cracks, especially the National Guardsmen who are playing such an active role in Iraq and Afghanistan and who return to civilian jobs and lives.

That’s why I was so excited to hear about Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. Project Healing Waters is a non-profit with the mission of “assisting in the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active duty military personnel and veterans through fly fishing and fly tying education and outings”. Fly fishing, especially for urban dwellers, may feel like an odd way of helping veterans rehabilitate, but the gentle calm of a rushing river and the slow, deliberate nature of fly fishing has helped the organization reach thousands of veterans through its programs in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Teaching veterans to tie flies builds patience, while the supportive environment of the various fly fishing tournaments and other events helps to create a sense of community and support for those seeking normalcy.

This organization, like many others, is trying unconventional means to assist veterans with the transition home. What made Project Healing Waters different for me was my background in water conservation issues and the chance to see the healing powers of clean water firsthand. Growing up in a rural area, we often took for granted the ability to fish our local streams and rivers for fish that was safe to eat and free from pollutants. That’s why I’m glad that thanks to the Clean Water Act and the work of the Environmental Protection Agency and its partners, there are pristine wetlands and riverine areas where I and my brothers and sisters in arms can go to find relief in the serenity of local waterways.

About the author: Trey Lewis is finishing his first year as an ORISE Fellow with the EPA’s WaterSense program, a partnership program focusing on water efficiency and conservation. He is also a member of the Maryland Army National Guard’s elite Long Range Surveillance unit and has spent time as an infantryman and intelligence analyst.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Connecting at the Water’s Edge

By Maryann Helferty

Young Red Belly Turtle seen at Lardner's Point

Young Red Belly Turtle seen at Lardner's Point

Late on a warm spring afternoon a few weeks ago, I walked along a newly restored tidal wetland and gazed at the young sedge grasses and arrowhead plants.  The line, “If you build it they will come” from the movie Field of Dreams passed through my mind.  Here at Lardner’s Point Park in Philadelphia, PA, both wildlife and people were reclaiming their spot at the water’s edge.

Earlier that week, the opening ceremony for the park celebrated the creation of 300 feet of shoreline access and four acres of open space.  After the ribbon-cutting, a visitor spotted a small baby turtle climbing up the fresh soil bank.  It was a red-belly turtle, a threatened species in Pennsylvania.  It had emerged from the river to welcome the park supporters, just as the early players from baseball’s past entered the cornfield ballpark of Kevin Costner’s dreams. A local water scientist reported that in ten years of boat surveys, he had not seen a young turtle of this species in this area.

Creation of the park was truly a Cinderella story, as the shoreline had been wrapped in a concrete bulkhead from its days as a ferry terminal, and was later fouled by an oil spill.  Over $500,000 in federal funding was dedicated to the restoration and mitigation project.

The ecological restoration of Lardner’s Point is about more than the re-emergence of a living marine ecosystem for plants and animals.  Along the industrial riverfront, open space is as rare as the threatened turtle. The design of this site features a fishing pier, connection to a bike trail and picnic tables.  Check out our podcast on the Lardner’s Point restoration to learn more.

These amenities bring a breeze of recreation to the dense, row-home neighborhood of Tacony nearby.  That’s why as part of the Urban Waters Movement, EPA is seeking to help communities — especially underserved communities — as they work to access, improve and benefit from their urban waters and the surrounding land.

As I left the pier, I said hello to a 10-year old boy carrying a fishing rod.  He happily reported that this was the first time he could walk with his grandfather and fish on the Delaware.  By reconnecting the river to wetlands and greenspace, the park was also connecting friends and family with great memories along the river.

With summer coming, how are you going to connect at the water’s edge?  May is American Wetlands Month, so take some time to learn how you can protect and restore wetlands near you.

About the Author: Maryann Helferty is a water quality scientist with the Mid-Atlantic Regional office of the EPA.  She has worked on groundwater and watershed protection in both the rural Pacific Northwest and the urban corridors of the Atlantic.  One of her passions is teaching urban youth about water through the poetry curriculum: River of Words.  You will find her this summer walking the water’s edge in the Wissahickon Watershed.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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An Eye-Opening Fish Story

Lake near Bald Mountain, Adirondacks. Photo by Danny Hart

Lake near Bald Mountain, Adirondacks. Photo by Danny Hart

By Danny Hart

For the past few weeks I’ve been planning my vacation to the Adirondack Mountains in Northern New York. I’ve decided to recapture some of the childhood pleasure of trout fishing. As kids, my siblings and I learned “spin casting” as opposed to the more artistic “fly casting” method of fishing; though my grandfather tied his own flies and could fly cast, we didn’t inherit that skill.

As the time to depart for vacation nears, the excitement grows and I share my anticipation with coworkers. Last week, one asked from across our cubicle which lake I was visiting. I mentioned the name of the lake and she replied, “You know you can’t eat trout from that lake”. I couldn’t believe it! She showed me a website for New York waters and the health risks associated with eating fish from various lakes. I couldn’t fathom why I wouldn’t be able to eat fish from a pristine, crystal clear lake! “DDT” she said, and lakes around the area were limited to one fish per month, one! Why? “Mercury” she said.

In that moment, the vision I had in my head of untouched natural wonder transformed to polluted, man-effected potential hazard. How could this be? How could these waters so far from industry have been changed? I realized then, that we are all connected in some way…that the smoke stacks in the Midwest directly affect the water and air quality of once-untouched waterways hundreds of miles away. The winds carry heavy metals and drop them in the form of rain. The DDT came from some other source, which is a mystery on that particular lake to this day.

Once I realized the connection I wanted to know more about this issue. I found out EPA recently finalized what is called the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which will prevent smoke stack pollution like mercury and other toxics from traveling long-distances and polluting what should be pristine lakes. The agency is also developing mercury and air toxics standards that will go a long way to cut mercury — and other harmful pollution — from our environment, so that maybe one day my kids (and their kids) will have an opportunity to fish in these lakes.

So, next week we’ll boat and swim in the lake. But we won’t fish. To safely fish, we’ll have to drive to another lake. We’re lucky, because there are other lakes in the area where eating the fish is still safe. For now.

About the author: Danny Hart has been with EPA since 2006. He’s the Associate Director of Web Communications.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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