Bay Journal

May 2014 - Volume 24 - Number 3
Lead story image

Could fish farms help take pressure off wild stocks?

Salmon skins glisten in the waters below as three men wait, nets in hand, for the right catch to swim near the surface.

The fish, grouped into one corner of an expansive pool, flop against its surface as the nets swoop in, splashing water that’s conspicuously salt-free onto the metal platform.

This, of course, isn’t the wild, where 2-year-old Atlantic salmon like this rarely venture south of the Connecticut River and have seldom been spotted in the Chesapeake Bay.

East Coast menhaden harvest decreased 26% from 2012

East Coast fishery officials say their efforts to reduce menhaden harvests were successful, as last year’s harvest— the first year since new restrictions were imposed — resulted in a 26 percent decrease from 2012.

Coastwide harvest by bait and reduction fisheries was 166,077 metric tons, or 2.8 percent below the coastwide cap of 170,800 metric tons, according to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

An additional 1,942 metric tons was caught as bycatch, but that still kept the total landings within the overall cap, according to ASMFC, an interstate panel that regulates fisheries along the East Coast.

Would you like a side salad with your platter of tilapia?

All sorts of people wander into the aquaponics hoop house at Cylburn Arboretum in Baltimore, where young scientists from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future are growing fish and plants.

There are people who dream of starting their own commercial operations. There are those who want to get off the grocery store grid and know the food they produce is pure and free of pesticides, antibiotics and genetic modifications. There are people who seek to put these systems in community gardens, at churches or in schools. And there are the curious biologists, botanists and physicists who want to see how the aquaponics lab put itself together.

Yellow-crowned herons commanding attention in Baltimore

At the end of March, a spectacular, summer-long show begins along Wyman Park Drive and the west entrance to Druid Hill Park in the heart of Baltimore. It is the song and dance of the yellow-crowned night herons, an uncommon bird that has taken up residence in the Jones Falls.

Grab a seat at orchestra level, on the James Rouse platform overlooking Round Falls, a spectacular sight in itself. There, you will see several nests. Early spring is nest-building time, where the male brings home a stick, puts it down, and the female decides to redecorate. Then it will be mating time, when the males “display,” extending their necks and stretching out their feathers in an elaborate courting dance.

The silence of the frogs: deadly virus leaves little to sing about

Pity the frog.

These beloved amphibians have endured so much stress in the last two decades that it’s a wonder they’re still singing. They’ve lost huge amounts of habitat to development. Whole wetlands are gone, and the vernal ponds where they breed and escape predators are disappearing so fast that many frogs must make do with concrete stormwater-retention areas instead of leafy natural habitats. Because they easily absorb chemicals through their skin, everything hurts more: toxins from air pollution, pathogens from waterways, and even pesticides in the environment that have been known to alter hormones and turn males into females.

MD campaign aims to take invasive catfish out of waters, onto plates

Maryland is taking aim at two voracious, invasive species — the blue and flathead catfish — through a major public awareness campaign that it hopes will educate both anglers and diners about this large and domineering predator.

The goal is to stop the spread of the catfish, which are eating some of the Chesapeake Bay’s prized fish, interrupting the food chain and spreading rapidly throughout many river systems.

The catfish came to the Chesapeake in the 1970s and are in almost every tributary, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Flatheads seem to favor the Potomac, though they’ve also been found in the Lower Susquehanna. Blue catfish have proliferated in the James River and in the Potomac, where anglers have been known to catch single fish weighing close to 100 pounds.

Overall, Bay region exceeded 2012-13 nutrient, sediment reduction goals

The Bay region exceeded its overall Chesapeake nutrient and sediment reduction goals for 2012–13, according to recently released figures. But the data also show that the region will need to accelerate agricultural and stormwater controls if it is to meet pollution reduction targets set for 2017.

Data submitted to the EPA from the states show that from 2009 through 2013, they have slashed the amount of nitrogen reaching the Bay by 17 million pounds — 4 million pounds more than they had committed to. Phosphorus reductions were also ahead of schedule.

Zebra mussels slowly expanding in the Susquehanna

Surveys conducted late last year suggest that zebra mussels continued to expand their foothold in the lower Susquehanna River, highlighting the need for boaters to be careful not to spread the invaders.

The bivalves were spotted at a marina above Conowingo Dam in 2008, and have since slowly expanded their range.

They turned up below the dam in 2010, and in recent years small numbers have been found attached to buoys near Havre de Grace at the river’s mouth. In 2011, one turned up in the nearby Sassafras River.

VA legislators hold the line for stormwater rollout

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that assures the implementation of stormwater regulations that are key to Virginia’s plans to meet the Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals.

At the beginning of the legislative session, 15 bills were submitted relating to stormwater, many seeking ways to delay or weaken the stormwater management rules passed in previous years and due to take effect on July 1. The rules will regulate discharges of stormwater from construction activities both during and post construction.

MD General Assembly withstands attacks on stormwater fee

Environmental leaders came to Annapolis this year with one overarching goal: Hold the line on the controversial stormwater fee passed two years ago.

They largely succeeded, battling 20 bills that sought to gut the landmark law requiring the state’s 10 largest jurisdictions to set up an authority that collects funds from property owners to pay for stormwater improvements.

Some lawmakers sought to delay the law’s implementation. Others wanted to exempt certain counties, and others tried to slip language into the budget that said counties and cities didn’t have to comply with the stormwater fee.

Chesapeake’s marshes may finally see end of invasive nutria

No one’s using the “E word” yet, but the virtual eradication of the Chesapeake Bay’s invasive nutria population — once considered improbable — should come by summer’s end.

The great marshes of Dorchester County, home to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, are considered cleared of the rat-tailed South American beaver.

Cleared too, are the infested rivers of the Delmarva Peninsula — Choptank, Nanticoke and Pocomoke. Nutria, once estimated at 50,000 or more and reported from the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal to Accomack County in Virginia, are down to a few hundred remaining animals.

SAV rebounds 24 % in 2013

After three years of sharp declines, acreage of ecologically important underwater grasses bounced back last year, increasing 24 percent in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries over the amount observed in 2012.

Still, beds of submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV, remain far below their average of the last three decades, and scientists are concerned that most of the comeback consists of widgeon grass, a species notorious for large year-to-year fluctuations.

“The widgeon grass story is great,” said Lee Karrh, a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources who chairs the Bay Program’s Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Workgroup. “That is good news. It will be interesting to see whether it persists.”

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