Bay Journal

November 2007 - Volume 17 - Number 8

Climate change already affecting Bay, experts say

Since the 1960s, water temperatures in the Chesapeake have warmed by about 2 degrees. In the mid-Atlantic, the period between the first and last accumulating snowfalls has decreased seven days in the last 50 years.

In the last century, Bay water levels have risen by more than a foot. About a dozen islands have vanished; others have been evacuated. Thousands of acres of shoreline marshes have eroded away.

Those were some of the examples scientists and others presented to a recent Senate committee hearing to illustrate that climate change is not a distant concern for the Bay region-it's a problem now. ...

Gilchrest proposes 5-year ban on menhaden fishing in East Coast waters

U.S. Rep Wayne Gilchrest has introduced legislation that would ban menhaden fishing in state and federal East Coast waters for five years while studies are completed to determine the health of the stock and to better understand the role it plays in the Bay ecosystem.

"Menhaden are filter feeders, helping to rid the Bay of algae, which suffocates underwater grasses and causes 'dead zones' in the Bay," Gilchrest, a Republican from the Eastern Shore, said when introducing the bill in October. "The species is also an important source of food for striped bass and blue fish." ...

Results of latest blue crab survey spurs call for action

Scientists have notched upward their concern about the Bay's blue crab population, warning in their latest report that agencies need to begin crafting new plans to rebuild the Chesapeake's most valuable fishery.

The report from the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee, which includes scientists and fishery managers from around the Bay, said the crab population remains at low levels and that this year's crab catch will almost certainly exceed the committee's overfishing threshold.

Scientists say a single year of overfishing is not necessarily a cause for alarm. ...

Early rainy months balanced summer drought for almost average water year

Although drought conditions ruled much of the Bay watershed though summer and early fall, figures from the U.S. Geological Survey show that the 12-month "water year" that ended Oct. 1 was almost the long-term average.

According to the USGS, the Bay's tributaries discharged an average of 79,500 cubic feet of water per second into the estuary during the water year. That was slightly more than the long-term average of 78,600 cubic feet per second.

The water year coincides with the annual hydrologic cycle. After dry summer months, streamflow typically increases from October until spring, when it begins a slow decline. ...

Senate Farm Bill includes $165 million for conservation programs in watershed

The Senate is moving toward action on a Farm Bill that would designate $165 million specifically for conservation programs in the Bay watershed over the next five years, increasing prospects for final legislation that boosts cleanup efforts.

Both the Senate version, which was introduced in October, and the House bill approved in July, will make more money available for a host of conservation programs that pay farmers to plant buffers, take environmentally sensitive land out of production, create wetlands, install runoff control practices or take other actions that protect the environment. ...

Charlie Stek receives Environmental Leadership Award

Charlie Stek is the recipient of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay's 2007 Environmental Leadership Award.

A key advocate of Bay issues for more than 25 years, Stek has represented and advised U.S. senators and congressmen and served on Sen. Paul Sarbanes' executive team from 1985 until the senator's retirement in early 2007.

In addition, Stek was directly responsible for managing and bringing to fruition many projects and legislative initiatives that were vitally important to the Chesapeake Bay region. ...

Bush wants to make striped bass off-limits to commercial fishing

President Bush in October said he supported designating striped bass as a "game fish" which would make it off-limits to commercial fishermen, saying he was worried about the species being overfished.

The president issued an Executive Order directing the departments of Commerce and Interior to prohibit the sale of striped bass, as well as red drum, caught in federal waters.

Because fishing for both species in federal waters, those more than 3 miles offshore, is already prohibited, the impact of the action is unclear. ...

Dwindling seaducks linked to demise of oyster bars

During recent work on the Chesapeake Bay, David Kidwell discovered what was long known by watermen: If you want to find oysters, look for ducks.

The wintering ducks float on the surface, periodically diving to pick off mussels, clams and other prey associated with oyster bars.

"The watermen knew this, but the scientists didn't," said Kidwell, who quickly learned that lesson while conducting duck surveys on the Bay for the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. ...

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