Bay Journal

November 2019 - Volume 29 - Number 8

Striped bass decline spurs new look at mycobacteria

When Wolfgang Vogelbein peered at striped bass sores through a microscope 22 years ago, he knew he was looking at something very different than what was grabbing headlines at the time.

Pfiesteria piscicida — the so-called “cell from hell” — was being blamed for fish kills in Maryland and making people sick.

But what Vogelbein saw through his lens wasn’t the result of a harmful algae toxin. It was a nasty bacterial infection, creating ugly sores on the outside of fish and lesions on the inside.

The infections were caused by mycobacteria, a type of bacteria that are widespread in the environment, but not typically associated with problems in wild fish. Suddenly, though, it was turning up in large numbers of the Chesapeake Bay’s most prized finfish.

VA wants to boost its environmental agency, but will it get the money?

Ralph Northam campaigned for Virginia’s highest office on his Chesapeake Bay roots, and he seemed to be making good on those promises when he made reforming the state’s environmental agency his sixth order of business last year.

A new report details what the state’s Department of Environmental Quality needs to fulfill its mission, though it will face some financial hurdles to be enacted. Since 2001, DEQ’s general fund appropriations have been reduced by $46 million, and 74 positions have been lost. Overseen by Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler, the report suggests that restoring the agency’s budget and staff won't be enough.

Coalition to think beyond state borders to offset Conowingo flows

Here’s one of the toughest jobs in the Chesapeake Bay cleanup:

  • Write and enact a plan to eliminate millions of pounds of nutrient pollution washing into waterways.
  • Do it without duplicating the pollution reduction plans that states will be using to meet their own goals, which typically contain the cheapest and potentially most effective options.
  • Oh, and come up with a way to pay for it, too.

Surprisingly, people have signed up for this seemingly impossible job. A coalition of nonprofits is developing a plan to reduce nutrient pollution to the Upper Bay to offset the impact of the Conowingo Dam — and to pay for it.

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