Bay Journal

April 1996 - Volume 6 - Number 2

Invasion by Sea

Greg Ruiz and his colleagues are used to finding all manner of organisms when they board foreign cargo ships arriving in the Chesapeake. Deep in the ballast tanks of these giant freighters, they find algae, worms, crabs and other species that don't belong within thousands of miles of the Bay.

But even these researchers -- who have boarded more than 100 vessels over the past three years as part of their research at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center -- were surprised last spring when they found an entire school of mullet swimming inside a ship. ...

Waterfowl Count Down

The results of Maryland's Midwinter Waterfowl Survey found a total of 554,800 birds, down from 1995's 651,300, with fewer diving ducks and snow geese accounting for much of the difference.

Extensive snow and ice cover was present during this year's survey, which resulted in concentrated waterfowl and more southerly distributions for some species. In announcing the totals, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin noted, Because of the snow and ice cover, we will have to wait and see the results from the entire flyway before drawing any conclusions about this Year's waterfowl populations. ...

Special Events Mark 25 Years of the Alliance

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has organized a Celebration Series to mark its 25 years of commitment to restoring the Bay.

Most of the events are open to the public and include a lecture series, canoe excursions and a gala night of dinner and dancing.

Fees for the events vary and members of the Alliance will receive a discount to thank them for their support. Anyone who joins the Alliance this year will also be eligible for the discounts. For membership information, call Jeff Moffatt at (410) 377-6270. ...

Farm Bill Offers Support for Conservation Programs

A new Farm Bill approved by Congress provides $47 billion over the next seven years in fixed, but declining, subsidy payments for certain commodity crops, but also includes a wide range of environmental programs for participating farmers.

In a new Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the bill would provide $200 million a year to livestock and crop producers who undertake land management or structural practices that preserve soil and water resources. The bill also authorizes up to $35 million a year to purchase easements to protect farmland from development. ...

Clinton’s 1997 Budget a Mixed Bag for Bay

President Clinton's proposed $1.64 trillion 1997 budget would increase overall spending on environmental programs by 4 percent while seeking to balance the government's books by 2002.

The budget would increase spending on the EPA's Chesapeake Bay activities, while those of two other major federal Bay participants, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, would face cuts.

The president's budget, released March 19, includes $21.1 million for the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program Office, or about $400,000 more than had been proposed for the office in 1996. ...

Virginia Votes to Remain in ASMFC

Virginia lawmakers have decided to remain in the East Coast organization that manages migratory fish stocks, at least for one more year.

Last year, in response to a federal law that forced states to abide by fishing restrictions set by the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission or risk a federally enforced fishing moratorium, the General Assembly voted to withdraw from the commission effective this July.

The ASMFC is a compact of the 15 East Coast states from Maine to Florida that cooperatively develops management plans to protect stocks of fish that migrate across state lines. ...

Virginia Sets Timetables for Tributary Plans

Virginia's General Assembly unanimously approved legislation committing the state to complete tributary nutrient reduction strategies for each of the state's major river systems by specific dates.

Under the legislation, the state would have to complete a strategy for the Potomac River Basin by Jan. 1, 1997. Strategies for the Rappahannock, James and York rivers would need to be completed by Jan. 1, 1998; and strategies for the smaller tributaries on the Eastern and Western shores are due by Jan. 1, 1999. ...

ASMFC Seeks Closure of Sturgeon Fishery

In an attempt to halt a continued stock decline, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is calling for a closure of the last remaining Atlantic sturgeon fisheries along the East Coast.

The commission's Atlantic Sturgeon Management Board recommended a two-year moratorium on sturgeon harvests to protect the Hudson River stock, the last major population along the coast outside Canada.

"If they shut down - and there is some indication they will - that really protects the last remaining self-sustaining stock on the East Coast," said John Field, anadromous species coordinator at the ASMFC. ...

USGS to See if Bay Effort is Drop in Bucket or On Course

When a drop of rain falls on the ground, just how long does it take for it to reach the Chesapeake Bay?

No one really knows. But the answer is critical to the Bay cleanup effort and will be a major focus of a multiyear research project being launched by the U.S. Geological Survey.

While the Bay Program has embarked on a major effort to reduce nutrients entering the Bay 40 percent by the turn of the century something that research suggests should significantly improve Chesapeake water quality - it's not certain how long it will take to see those improvements. ...

Federal Agencies Announce Nutrient Strategy Plan

The Smithsonian Institution plans to improve the management of animal wastes at the National Zoo. The National Park Service is using less fertilizer and pesticides on its property in the District of Columbia. And the U.S. Postal Service has converted 120 vehicles to run on natural gas, thereby reducing air emissions.

Those are just some of the activities under way or planned as part of a special tributary strategy for the 40 percent of land in the District of Columbia that is federally owned. The strategy was signed March 25 by more than 20 federal agencies. ...

Mark of Success

One way the Bay Program may provide technical assistance to the Pamunkey Indians is to help them "mark" their hatchery fish before releasing them - something that will help them identify returning shad and determine the effectiveness of their hatchery.

Shad fry reared at all other hatcheries around the Chesapeake are marked with tetracycline antibiotics before being released. Shad fry, as young as 3 days old, are immersed in a tetracycline solution that is absorbed into growing bone tissue. At that early age, the otolith, or earstone, is the only true bone present in the fish. The otoliths grow by adding rings, similar to the rings in tree trunks, except that one ring is developed each day. A fry immersed at three days, for example, produces a tetracycline mark in the third ring. Additional immersions at later dates produce multiple marks. ...

Putting eggs in more than one basket

IN the early part of this century, American shad were the most important commercial fish species in the Chesapeake Bay, with annual catches of about 17.5 million pounds reported.

Before that, the stocks were even larger: Colonial accounts tell of migrating fish packing the region's rivers during the spring spawn. "There are reports that wagons crossing the James River by Richmond used to squash the fish, there were so many," said Albert Spells, Virginia fisheries coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Obviously, things have " ...

Coast Guard Begins Voluntary Ballast Program

Responding to concerns about the potential impacts that invasions of aquatic species could have on the Bay, the U.S. Coast Guard instituted a voluntary program more than a year ago to encourage ships to exchange their ballast water before entering the Chesapeake.

The Coast Guard has been handing out pamphlets focusing on ballast water and the Chesapeake, conducted "focus group" meetings with vessel agencies and distributed copies of an informational video and training package.

As a result of their efforts, compliance with the voluntary program has risen from about 25 percent to 30 percent at the beginning of last year, to about 80 percent compliance recently, according to Coast Guard figures. ...

Sneads Farm Asparagus Festival May 27-29 in Fredericksburg, VA

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