Bay Journal

November 1995 - Volume 5 - Number 8

Better air = better water

Clean air legislation intended to help people breathe easier may have an unintended benefit: It may help fish in the Chesapeake Bay, and other East Coast estuaries, breathe easier as well.

That's a message that a group of state and federal air pollution officials and water quality managers plan to drive home to the public and public officials in the coming months and years.

The decision was made at the second "Shared Resource" conference, one of an ongoing series of meetings in which officials dealing with East Coast bays and estuaries discuss issues of mutual concern. The two-day October conference, which focused on the impact of airborne nitrogen deposition on coastal waters, drew representatives from state and federal air pollution programs as well. ...

Toxics inventory faces challenges in Congress and in court

Last year, the Bay states agreed to substantial reductions in the amount of toxic chemicals entering the environment from manufacturers and federal facilities. Whether those reductions ever become a reality, though, now hinges on something the states have no direct control over: Congress and the courts.

The reason is that almost all the quantifiable toxics reductions called for in the "Basinwide Toxics Reduction and Prevention Strategy" are tied to the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory. Certain industries are required to make annual reports of chemicals on the TRI list under the 1986 Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. ...

ASMFC blocks states from expanding shad catch

Worried about the continued decline of American shad populations along much of the East Coast, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has acted to prevent states from increasing their catches until a new management plan for the species is developed.

The "emergency action" was taken by the ASMFC's Shad and River Herring Management Board at its Oct. 5 meeting to head off mounting pressure from fishermen to relax regulations in some areas. At the same time, though, the board rejected proposals for more severe restrictions than had been offered by its technical committee. ...

Blue crab decline may date to 1972, scientists say

While recent surveys have shown a drop in the blue crab population over the last several years, a leading crab researcher is now suggesting that stocks of the Chesapeake's most valuable species have actually been in a "low phase" for more than two decades.

Rom Lipcius, a scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science who also advises the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, and Rochelle Seitz, a doctoral candidate at VIMS, theorize that the crab's decline dates to Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972. ...

Virginia blue crab catch is the lowest in decades

The worst blue crab catch in 36 years may lead to more restrictions on Virginia's watermen, Virginia Marine Resources Commission officials said. This year's catch totaled 25 million pounds, half the size of the 1993 harvest and 8 million pounds less than 1992, which had been the leanest harvest since 1959, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Roy Insley, chief of crab management for the VMRC, said studies found that the number of crabs caught per pot per day has fallen for the past two years. ...

Virginia strategy for Potomac emphasizes local action

Virginia's portion of the Potomac River drainage is well on its way toward meeting the Bay Program's 40 percent nutrient reduction goal for phosphorus, but significantly lags for nitrogen, with more than three-quarters of that reduction still to come to meet a turn-of-the-century deadline.

The figures are contained in draft tributary strategy aimed at achieving the nutrient reduction in Virginia's portion of the Potomac basin. The draft was the subject of hearings and public comment in late September and October. A final document is expected this winter. ...

Average spawn keeps rockfish recovery on track

After back-to-back spawns that helped to boost striped bass stocks into fully "recovered" status, this year's juvenile index returned to levels that were near its 41-year average.

Maryland's 1995 "young-of-year" index of 9.3 is just slightly below its average of 9.6. It followed indices of 16.1 last year and 39.6 in 1993 the best back-to-back spawning years on record. Over the past four years, the index average has been at its highest for any four-year period since the early 1970s.

"These numbers show that we are achieving the levels necessary to maintain the striped bass fishery over the long term," said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin. "The last few years of high juvenile indices have provided an enormous number of small striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries." ...

Toxic releases down sharply in watershed

The amount of toxic chemicals released from major industrial facilities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed declined by more than half since 1988, bringing the Bay Program close to meeting a goal contained in the toxics reduction stnrategy adopted last year.

The watershed's 52.4 percent reduction outpaced the national average, according to the data gathered by the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory. Across the United States, toxic chemical releases declined 42.7 percent between 1988 and 1993. ...

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