Sample Trip Proposal
Written by Michaelangelo Ball Van Zee ’15 and Katie Smith ‘15
Trip Proposal Name: “Human Choices and Ecosystem Health: Fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay”
Trip Proposal Location: Chesapeake Bay, Cape Cod (note: trip was relocated to New England due to support from New England Princeton alumni)
Category: Environment and Sustainability
Describe the topic/issue of the trip and why it’s important to you:
As I have learned more about nature, I have realized that it does not exist in isolation. People and their actions are some of the biggest drivers of environmental change, and environmental issues thus often need solutions coming from people. At the same time, humanity depends on nature. One area that epitomizes this interdependence between people and their environment is fisheries. Human decisions, on local, governmental, and international levels, affect the health of our oceans as well as their capacity to support fishing communities. International conflicts, including the Cod Wars around Iceland and border disputes between Korea and Japan, can originate from fisheries issues. In many places, desperation and poverty, political pressure from fishermen, and government subsidies of fishing equipment have led to depletion of fish and shellfish populations. This in turn can lead to a host of other social and environmental issues, including decreased water quality, overabundance of “pest” species, loss of income for fishermen, and increases in the price of seafood. As I have become more interested in marine issues, I have taken it upon myself to learn more about them in classes such as Marine Biology, Coral Reef Ecology, and Ocean, Atmosphere, and Climate, as well as personal exploration of estuarine and bay communities by kayak. Chesapeake Bay is the ideal place to look at the connection between fisheries and ecosystem and community health. Formerly filled with clear waters teeming with fish, crabs, and oysters, historic overharvesting of oysters and increased nutrient and sediment runoff have increased turbidity. Seagrasses, underwater flowering plants that serve as nurseries for many commercially important species, require light for photosynthesis, and thus have experienced massive dieoffs. More recently, an oyster disease has massacred many remnant populations. Such environmental problems have severely affected the plethora of fishing communities that used to thrive on the bay’s abundance. Luckily, in Chesapeake Bay, as in other places in the US, there is potential for improvement. One policy measure that is being considered for the famous blue crab fishery is catch shares. In contrast to traditional fisheries management with daily catch limits or fixed fishing seasons, under a catch share system, the total allowable catch for an area is determined, and individual fishermen are given shares to harvest at their convenience. They can also sell their shares to other fishermen who may want to harvest more. Such regulations have resulted in decreased fishing injuries, accidents, and unwanted bycatch, because fishermen are not rushed to maximize their catch in a limited timeframe. However, opposition to catch shares still remains. In addition, numerous local and region-wide environmental groups are involved in helping to restore the bay’s ecosystem.
Breakout Student Board Notes: We loved this description of the problem and why it will be relevant and accessible to participants. Michaelangelo and Katie very specifically described the importance of the topic as well as connecting it to the location they proposed.
What are the learning goals for the trip? What impact do you expect to have on the community and/or issue?
Our major learning goal for the participants is to reach a better understanding of the fisheries process so they can realize what impacts their consumer choices make. We hope to learn more about fishery health in the Chesapeake Bay as a case study, but to generalize our knowledge into an understanding of fishery, economic, and watershed health nationwide. By examining particular fishing practices and specific types of fish, we can develop a sense of which practices are sustainable and which need improvement. We hope to not just look at what currently is going on, but also to learn about past successes and failures. From these lessons, we can see what the Chesapeake and other regions have learned in their development. Another goal that is more breakout-wide is for our group to interact with and synthesize opinions from community partners of different viewpoints. The community partners we plan on interacting with all are acting with what they consider the best intentions. To get feedback and input from fishermen (commercial and recreational), community members, and environmental groups will help us analyze the issue from many sides. However, these people will all have different interests, and it is up to our group to sort through which facts have a consensus and which facts are disputed, as well as which course of action we think is best. This is one of my favorite parts about breakout, and Michelangelo and I think it serves participants well in the future in any endeavor.
Breakout Student Board Notes: We were impressed with the way the writers had a comprehensive understanding of the problems and solutions, and how they could provide a learning curve for participants. We especially liked describing the multiple perspectives and their ability to be sensitive while synthesizing many types of organizations with varying interests in the problem.
Describe anticipated trip logistics and other details (housing, meals, transportation during the trip from/to Princeton, etc). What supplies will you need for your trip and activities?
As the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland is fairly close to Princeton (only about a three hour drive), we plan on using Pace Center vans to drive there and back, as well as for local transportation. We have not yet identified a specific housing provider, but we plan on first accessing the alumni network in the area to see if alum would be willing to host us for a few nights. As a next step, we plan to contact local churches to see if we would be able to stay with them for an affordable cost. For this, we will likely need to borrow some Pace Center sleeping bags, if possible. We plan to stay somewhere with a kitchen, so that we can cook dinners as a group and prepare lunches for most days we will be out. However, as this is a trip focused on fisheries, we also think it would be valuable to eat out a few times to sample some of the seafood (i.e. Maryland crab boils, oysters, etc.) available in the area.
Breakout Student Board Notes: We appreciate the attention to fiscal responsibility here. In proposing a trip within driving distance, they are mindful of their expenses. It is an excellent idea to reach out to alumni and try to find housing through Princeton networks as a way to save money as well.